Alibaba has been on quite a roll lately.
First, there was Alifest 2012, where best-selling author and New York Times columnist Tom Friedman keynoted the conference and came away impressed with the size and scope of the company’s vision.
Then, on November 11 – dubbed “Single’s Day” in China (due to the numeric 11-11 calendar date) and the rough equivalent of Cyber Monday in the U.S. – Alibaba’s two main e-commerce properties, Taobao and TMall, combined to ring up sales greater than that of all U.S. e-commerce sales combined(!) in 2012.
A tough act to top, but they topped it last week when Alibaba became the first e-commerce company to exceed 1 trillion RMB in sales in a single year, to become the biggest e-commerce company in the world.
How do you build on those gains in 2013, you ask? By democratizing payments like never before, an announcement Alibaba made on Monday, December 10, Beijing time. If you’d like to read the original announcement [make sure your browser is translation-enabled, unless you can read simplified Chinese], then skip to this page.
Our Initial Impressions of the Service
Alipay sees this as an upgraded alternative to Apple’s Passbook, with payment integrated. It is also an open platform for third party developers to integrate into.
With this offering, Alipay is seriously entering into the offline payment field. They’ve just rolled out QR-based payment for physical stores and are reportedly working on ultrasonic-coded payment validation. What this mean is a smartphone, plus any other smartphone (or computer), can conduct payment transactions without additional equipment.
There are two ways to use the QR service:
- Merchants (e.g. store owner) generate a QR code for each product.
- Shoppers scan to pay (either pay right away or with the Alipay guarantee service)
- Merchants can lookup transaction records via Alibaba management portal
- Merchant (e.g. taxi owner) generates 1 QR code to receive payment
- Consumer scans code to pay lump sum
Other news coverage is already publishing Alibaba claims that they’ve got thousands of merchants in 11 Chinese cities, already, from pre-public beta business development.
Expect to see Alibaba CEO, Jack Ma, & company leveraging all the big data insights they’ve been getting via the Alibaba universe, i.e., Taobao, TMall, Aliyun-powered apps, and more.
The likely, key Alibaba competitors in this field, with enough capital and resources, are:
- Tencent, which is actively working on integrating Wechat (aka, Weixin, in China) with its own payment platform
- Telecom operators (e.g., China Unicom, China Telecom), which are rolling out mobile wallet solutions based on upgraded SIM cards that also can do NFC
You can find more information about Alipay’s QR payment service on their QR sub-domain.
新 版支付宝类似于苹果 iOS 6 中新增的 Passbook 应用，能够一站式管理用户的票据、优惠券、门票、礼品卡等电子凭证，Passbook 的出现搅动了国内 O2O 市场的浑水，不仅围绕 Passbook 推出一系列的适配开发，也出现了一些类似 Passbook 的应用。新版支付宝则是对 Passbook 的升级版，它不仅更能够管理用户的各种优惠券、会员卡、门票、礼券，还能够绑定多张银行卡进行个人账单的管理。
用户可以在支付宝的“找优惠”中寻找卡券，用户成功交易后生成的票据会出现在相应的“卡槽”中。很可惜目前新版支付宝还不能支持集成第三方 O2O 应用的优惠券，不像 Passbook 那样能方便收集各个商户提供或者生成的票据。
这 个“电子卡包”不再像老版本的支付宝那样是一系列应用图标的堆砌，而是可以进行互动的个性化账户管理。此外，支付宝还可以针对用户的消费进行管理，不仅支 持像传统记账应用的功能，还能对个人消费做财务数据的分析。如果你的消费数额超过自己设定的警戒线，还会对超额的消费做出提醒。不过支付宝不预备自己做内 容，而是继续做开放平台，与众多平台和商家合作。
国 内虽然有种多提供 O2O 服务的应用，但是却缺少最重要的一个环节——支付。支付宝牢牢掌握国内在线支付的霸主地位，这是那些 O2O 应用可望而不可及的。只有真正掌握用户最终消费的结果，才能了解用户的消费习惯、喜好。通过分析“大数据”来了解用户的消费趋势。通过与淘宝和天猫的联 合，也可以为商户提供消费资讯。很多进军移动支付领域的企业还是把手机钱包当成一个简单的支付工具，掌握这个工具就掌握了用户支付的通道，其实还是不够 的。
在 移动支付领域耕耘了多年的易宝支付CEO唐彬也持类似观点：“互联网开放、分享、自下而上，最终就是为了围绕个人的生活展开，在网络里面个性化得到了一个 极大的满足。在移动互联网的交易越来越丰富的同时，需求也越来越个性化。围绕这些交易提供个性化的服务，才是移动支付的创新方向。”
腾 讯是一个无论如何都绕不开的竞争对手，目前腾讯“挟微信以令诸侯”，在未来几个月中将会在微信中绑定手机支付功能，与财付通进行整合，试图把腾讯的电商业 务在微信上彻底打通，腾讯也在 O2O 市场上进行一系列的动作来补充自己的实力，意图在移动支付市场大展身手。以腾讯的实力，要为用户提供更便捷的移动支付服务不是问题，目前重要的是与支付宝 展开时间竞赛，争夺主动权。
电信运营商也不是省油的灯，12 月5日在中国移动全球开发者大会上，宣布开放 NFC(Near Field Communication) 手机 SIM 卡空间，其中基 于NFC 的新产品手机钱包(现场支付)也正式发布。11月26日，中国联通携手招商银行发布了首个近场支付产品——手机钱包，实现了银行卡功能与手机功能的“合二 为一”。此前，中国电信正式启动 SIMPass 的移动支付解决方案。SIMPass 是 NFC 技术的一个变种，包含了非接触和接触两个界面，接触界面可以实现SIM卡应用，非接触界面支持各种非接触应用。通过这一设备，用户可以用手机实现交通一卡 通的功能。
电信运营商的优势在于它们掌握海量的用户，而用户也可以换一张支持 NFC 功能的 SIM 卡即可实现方便的近场支付功能。而支付宝要使用 NFC 功能还需要用户的移动设备支持，而目前提供 NFC 功能的手机并不多。电信运营商与手机设备厂商也为移动支付功能暗自较量，比如美国电信运营商 Verizon 就屏蔽了 Google Wallet 服务。
by Nathan Toups, guest contributor
Every enduring movement needs a manifesto. We think it’s time the cloud had one and I’m inviting you to kickstart it.
I’m teaming up with my colleague, Brad Carleton and the two of us – along with free-lance editor Susan Butler and illustrator Martin Whitmore – plan to write Embracing Disruption, a manifesto about disruptive innovation, “the cloud,” and the future of information as we know it.
By day, I’m an Apple IT consultant who speaks annually at MacTech Conference in L.A. on the future of Apple IT, mobility and the cloud for small business. You may remember my last Appconomist contribution on how “Apple Cares about Enterprise.”
Embracing Disruption will lift the veil on the on the best kept secrets in the cloud computing industry. It will also introduce the philosophical, design, and technical concepts that are only beginning to be explored by the community surrounding the most important revolution to ever happen in computing and data.
Embracing Disruption will be a must-read for anyone involved in the technology world, from IT professionals and engineers, down to bloggers, podcasters and tech enthusiasts.
The team working on this project has been perfectly positioned to see the cloud revolution from its inception to what it has grown to today, with all the hiccups in-between.
Based in Austin — the new home of start-ups — Brad & I have worked directly in the industry for the last several years running successful companies by utilizing our world class knowledge of cloud computing and disruptive development. Now we want to share it with the rest of the community.
To learn more and to donate, please visit the project’s page on Kickstarter.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re happy to say that Nathan and his team topped their funding goal well in advance of the deadline and are busy writing the Manifesto. Continue to watch for updates on the Kickstarter page and – if you are attending SXSW 2013 – plan to attend the debut party!
by Steve Guengerich, Executive Editor
I had the pleasure of being a guest at Frost & Sullivan’s Growth, Innovation & Leadership (or GIL) forum yesterday in Shanghai.
Regrettably, I could only attend a portion of the day’s activities, so I focused on the portion of the program in the afternoon that concentrated on mobile, per Appconomist’s editorial mission.
The sessions I attended were part of an afternoon track – or “Industry Think Tank” as described in the Frost agenda – that covered the broad area of “Technology, Medias & Telecommunications.”
Of particular note was Haoyong (“Fox”) Hu’s presentation on the development of mobile e-business. In the session, he covered a nice overview of subjects ranging from current trends and near-term expectations for sectors ranging from gaming, to shopping, to mobile payments.
For LBS services, it was of great interest to see how the combination of satellite and wifi technology, combined with the GPS capabilities, are expected to fuel dramatic growth in new apps, like innovative social, home-based, and shopping services.
In gaming, it was interesting to hear Hu’s data that described how mobile gaming’s growth has more than tripled, while other gaming categories (platform, PC-based, MMORPG) have stayed relatively flat or declined in share.
Further, he discussed how proven revenue models in gaming – including advertisements, virtual goods, subscriptions, and VIP membership privileges, as well as hybrids thereof – continue to make mobile games an attractive category for mobile developers.
For mobile payments, it was of interest to hear Hu’s comments on the positioning that continues to evolve among many different players for setting the agenda for payments infrastructure and services: from the banks, to the telecommunications companies, to the network technology providers, to global, mobile brands.
One of the things that was different about the GIL event from so many that I attend was its intentional, big picture agenda. It wasn’t just technology “how to’s;” instead, it was deliberately oriented around big themes – the iconic “Megatrends,” as first popularized by futurist John Naisbitt 30 years ago.
Clearly, the audience and setting for the event were carefully modulated for this kind of strategic reflection for the day. It was a nice change of pace, yet no less urgent in its overall message, which is “China and the world are changing fast” and one can either react to the changes or be part of a global community of innovators helping to lead it.
For those who were unable to attend the event, there are two opportunities to stay connected to the GIL thought leadership. One is by opting in to receive Frost’s ebulletins. The other is to check-in with the GIL online community from time to time.
I had the pleasure of chairing an absolutely terrific group of panelists over the weekend at an event in San Jose.
The panel topic was “Building the Mobile Enterprise in Uncertain Times” (avaialble for download on Slideshare) and it was an open forum to address a wide range of potential issues, from enterprise security, to app development build/buy decisions, to user experience and UI design essentials, and much more.
The reason for the topic was pretty straightforward, even if somewhat counterintuitive by today’s standards. I say counterintuitive, because the prevailing wisdom of the moment seems to be that consumer product design and marketing has overcome the former influence of business-to-business product design and marketing, when it comes to decisions driving enterprise IT planning and deployment.
Apple’s success (sometimes closely accompanied by Microsoft’s struggles) is frequently cited as “Exhibit A” in this line of thinking. A related piece of supporting evidence is the contribution that small businesses and the freelancing industry make to the overall economy, representing half of the overall business economy in the US and a similarly large portion in other countries.
Of course, what gets lost in these simple observations is that large private and publicly traded enterprises, representing billions of annual revenues and millions of jobs, generate the other half of the economy.
And, even though those same enterprise employees more frequently than ever carry around with them smartphones and tablets, just like their small business brethren, the privacy, operational, financial, and other legal requirements are vastly different for the enterprises.
To tackle such a topic, I couldn’t have been more pleased with the panelists who participated. They included:
- Adam Lipman – COO, Chaotic Moon Studios (starting closest in photo, then moving out)
- Quinn Li – Managing Director of Qualcomm Ventures, North America
- David Patron – Director of Innovation, Emerging Technologies, PepsiCo IT
- Vishy Gopalakrishnan – Vice President, SAP
They were an absolutely amazing, killer group of speakers. My only regrets were that the conference organizers didn’t do a better job of featuring such an all-star group of presenters and that we couldn’t have continued the panel longer than the 50 minutes that we had, because the majority of the audience were glued to their seats as we just barely scratched the surface of the possible discussion areas.
Of those discussion topics, the 3 major points of interest to the audience members were the following
1 – The importance of good user experience design in the enterprise.
All four panelists were unanimous in their strident belief that the user experience of apps designed for a single enterprise – even a very large one – needed to be every bit as well thought out and satisfying to use as that of a mass market consumer mobile app. Even though enterprise users are a “captive audience,” an app will fail if the user experience is poor.
They recommended that the app design team really intensely focus on the day, the life, and the situation of their typical enterprise users. “Put yourself in the context of the people in the field,” was their advice. Then, begin to design the app’s functions and its user interface (UI) from a storyboard of how the app would be used.
2 – The oft-debated value of platforms (see the notes from the other panel I chaired last week, on Cloud Services).
There was somewhat of a consensus among the panelists of the merit of mobile development platforms for providing affordable access to expensive infrastructure and tested, production-ready code for services like user authentication and notifications.
However, when it came to discussing the pros and cons of one development platform over another – like HTML5 versus cross-platform development tools like Appcelerator, they asserted that developers should be wary of pre-conceived notions about a right vs. wrong way to build an app.
A simple example they used had to do with the relative need to app connectivity. For example, in some situations, having access to a 3G or 4G network can make an app better, by tapping the data stream that is available from a real-time connection. But in other situations, being able to download the app’s data to the device for local storage can be a major advantage, even if it takes longer or requires more frequent syncing.
Among the scenarios where this could be essential was the case in which a field person is deep inside a store speaking with and answering questions of a busy store manager. The field person needs their app data available in an unconnected/offline state, so that they can still respond to the needs of a store manager immediately, in the moment of need.
3 – Managing customer expectations.
Both in-house and independent developers in our audience wanted tips from the panel for how to better prepare prospective clients and/or manage their expectations for the level of effort required for a successful mobile app design, deployment, and on-going management.
With the advent of “freemium,” template-based mobile apps for simple tasks like event information or contact management and media attention given to high school classes where students design their own apps, many in the audience expressed frustration about a misperceived expectation of simplicity and low cost for mobile apps.
The panelists had a number of suggestions for mitigating this misperception, but the most universal closely hewed to another advantage that a strong user experience capability provides an enterprise. They said that by putting the client “in the shoes” of their intended users of the app, from the very beginning, the client would re-focus their attention on what the app really needed to accomplish and the associated level of sophistication it needed to deliver.
In short, they counseled that the focus of the conversation needed to quickly move away from the pure timeframes and economics (“speeds and feeds,” in IT parlance) and move towards a definition of success and a thoroughly satisfied user base. With that shift made, the client would invariably have a better, shared understanding of the costs and development timetable required.
You know that something rather fundamental has changed when the kick-off speaker for the biggest 1st year conference to hit Silicon Valley in quite a while delivers his remarks in Mandarin. But, that’s what happened at the GMIC-Silicon Valley when Yuri Milner interviewed Lei Jun, Xiaomi’s founder.
They led off an event that one fellow participant, next to me, observed a rapid “revolving door” of speakers, welcomers, organizers, and panelists for the morning. The mayor of San Jose, Chuck Reed, even got stage time encouraging everyone to “max out their expense accounts” while visiting the city – there’s a man with a mission, on behalf of his business community!
The overall message we would observe, from the variety of fireside chats and panels, is two-fold:
- that mobile remains the most fast-changing, innovative industry, bar none, and
- that it is rapidly headed to a future of convergence – a post-mobile world
In this post-mobile world, the technologies that we think of as mobile, i.e., hardware devices and software apps, are embedded in everything…from cars to clothing, from appliances to artwork, from weapons to wristwatches (assuming the Pebble can bring the wristwatch back).
Some of the morning speaker highlights included comments by Vaughan Smith, Facebook’s VP of Mobile, who said that its mobile users had crossed over 600 million per month. When they switch to mobile, Facebook users spend 20% more time on it. And lastly, he said they churn (i.e., stop becoming active users) of a product 18% less than through other non-Facebook mobile channels.
Another highlight was Tim Draper, of DFJ. His expansive comments ranged from the role that mobile played in enabling the successful transition to democratic governments during the Arab Spring, to the potential for mobile to influence the support for free markets and outing of corrupt leaders in Africa, to his enthusiasm for Draper University, which is targeted to provide life-changing experiences for 18-28 year-olds, as future leaders.
Ever the venture capitalist, Draper also encouraged participants with great mobile products that are truly different to contact him (Tim@DFJ.com). He also brought “down the house” with a live performance, partly singing / partly rapping a tune he called “The Riskmaster.”
We attended the GMIC in Beijing in May and were pleased to join as a media partner of the inaugural US event, based upon the strength of what we saw in China. So far, we haven’t been disappointed.
Watch for more articles and updates via twitter (@Appconomist) and hashtag #TheGMIC, as well as Sina Weibo updates (also, @Appconomist).
by Steve Guengerich, Executive Editor
I chaired a great panel today at the kick-off of the 2-day App Conference in San Jose. The panel topic, on “Cloud Services for Mobile Developers,” really is one of the most important topics for developers. Because, at the proverbial end of the day, the ability to be “bigger, better, faster” than others will make a key difference in an app developer’s long-term success.
I was fortunate to have three terrific panelists join me:
- Alan Knitowski, Phunware
- Steven Citron-Pousty, Redhat
- Dave McLauchlan, Buddy
You can view and download the overview slides I presented, as well as the intro slides that they each prepared.
What was terrific about them was that, while they each presented a different cloud services/ platform solution, they also spoke very frankly about the issues, concerns, and struggles app developers confront, when choosing the tools & technologies they use to build and deploy apps.
There were a number of gems in their comments. Among the most urgent discussion was around answering the question: “is it actually cheaper to run in the cloud?”
All three said “no” when it comes to the pure out-of-pocket expense for hardware, software, data center / communications facilities, etc. In fact, Dave from Buddy said they had benchmarked the difference with the cloud option being 2.5 X more expensive than the DIY (do it yourself) option.
But they all further went on to say that the cost of people’s time, management resources, upfront investment in perfecting a mobile app infrastructure, and ability to move rapidly made mobile platforms a better option for early or smaller development shops – whether an in-house enterprise dev team or an independent app dev agency.
As Steven from Redhat asked the audience (rhetorically), “who here likes to do server administration?” to which no hands raised their hand in answer. The point being, leave that kind of time-intensive drudgery to a platform provider.
Alan took the “is the cloud cheaper” question one step further. He contrasted the potential for saving money by building one’s own platform services with the consequence of delivering a mobile app for a large client with critical service level needs or that has high visibility brand awareness with consumers.
“Is it really worth it?” he asked the audience, to risk a terrible experience – one he cited was NBC’s Olympics app that crashed repeatedly and received a one-and-a-half star rating in the Appstore – by using an early-stage, in-house set of mobile services.
Their companies all represent good options for developers to build robust apps. On the two ends of the range were Redhat and Phunware, with Buddy somewhere in the middle.
You can read more about each platform and gain access to varying levels of “sand box” functions & features, by going to their respective developer sites:
Whereas Redhat’s Openshift caters perhaps more to the open source/independent developer or agency, Phunware’s PRAISE caters more to the large, multi-brand enterprise or agency-of-record for big consumer product & services producers.
Buddy’s difference is in its scenario-based approach, as well as its addition of Microsoft Windows 8 as a native option for app developers – something that few offer.
Earlier this morning (early evening, US time), Appcelerator and IDC distributed their latest quarterly report on app developer community trends and preferences. This closely watched report has been an excellent source of US-centric indications of the shifting trends in the app development community.
While it’s nearly unavoidable for a vendor like Appcelerator to work in a couple of shots at the competition (like HTML5) or plugs for its strategic directions (platform services), our opinion is that the reports, balanced with IDC’s touch, have been a valuable contribution to developer community knowledge.
After a quick initial read of the report, here are a few of the findings that caught our eye:
1. A very strong sense (almost certainly driven by developer activity) that Facebook is vulnerable. Mobile developers appear to be going after that weakness aggressively, hoping to disrupt Facebook significantly enough to provide an opening for one or more emerging, mobile-centric social networks.
2. We are a little surprised by the data that indicates a 4th consecutive quarter of declining interest in Android development. This finding is especially befuddling, given the data later in the report showing that developers are overwhelmingly motivated by the installed base and price of smartphones.
The sticking points seem to be: (1) concern about the revenue potential for Android apps, as compared with iOS and (2) continuing fragmentation of the Android platform, with developments like Alibaba’s Aliyun fork not helping matters in terms of developer confidence.
3. A very strong base of support (right now, perhaps best characterized as wishful thinking) for the Windows 8 platform and introduction of new wave of mobile devices like the Surface. However, there is a dose of reality in the wishful thinking that indicates developers understand the difficult road ahead for Microsoft to make significant gains on Apple and the Android ecosystem.
Finally, we were quite intrigued by the developer persona provided at the very end of the report. While not labeled that way, it provides some fascinating insight into the present attributes and opportunities for the developer community, for example, the enormous gender disparity, of 96% men to 4% women.
You can download a copy of the report, at no charge, by completing a form on Appcelerator’s website.
by Steve Guengerich
Global. Mobile. Internet. That about says it all, doesn’t it?
When we first attended the Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC) in Beijing this past May 10-11, we were eager to see how “global” the event was.
We’ll have to say, for a relatively young event, we were impressed – and we attend *a lot* of events! Selfishly, among the few things that we wish we’d seen was more participation from US companies and English-speaking entrepreneurs. You can read the trip report of firsthand observations, key learnings, etc. from our sister company, Appconomy, Inc.
However, we were sufficiently impressed with the event that when we learned the producers – the Great Wall Club – planned to hold their inaugural event in the US a full year earlier than we had been expecting, we wanted to help support it.
And, thus, we’re pleased to say that Appconomist has joined a number of other media, association, and promotional partners to create awareness of the event and encourage you to strongly consider putting the GMIC-Silicon Valley (#GMIC-SV) on your calendar for this October 19-20.
GMIC-Silicon Valley is themed “Connecting Global Innovators” and features a terrific line-up of speakers and panels on the shifts, challenges and opportunities for mobile innovation in growing markets.
In addition to the main program, the producers are featuring a couple of parallel tracks of mobile programming and competitions, to provide more hands-on appeal to mobile developers and entrepreneurs: the AppSpace/appAttack and the G-Startup SV.
Speaking of mobile designers and developers, Appconomist is giving away 20 free Developer (Expo) passes worth $50 each. Although they are probably more valuable to those readers who are within a daily commute of the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, where GMIC-Silicon Valley is being held, all are welcome to claim one. To get one now, click this registration link – hope to see you there, in a month!