Are Today’s Business Leaders Too Afraid of Risk?

During this year’s TIME Davos panel “Leading through Adversity” — video highlights of which you can watch below — TIME International editor Jim Frederick asked some of the world’s biggest players in the global economy a simple question: Are leaders too risk-averse in their efforts to bring the economy back on track? It’s not an unfamiliar query for the likes of Walmart CEO Mike Duke, Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Martin Senn, CEO of Zurich Insurance Group. Indeed, political gridlock has been gripping economies from the U.S. to Germany to China, making uncertainty a defining theme of this year’s Davos chatter. As Eurasia Group’s Ian Bremmer said at a recent Thomson Reuters event in New York: For “emerging markets in general, the level of political instability is underpriced for 2013.” Aside from political risks abroad, corporate executives have taken a lot of heat for using uncertainty about taxes and regulation back home as an excuse to put off investing in jobs and growth. The TIME panel shed some light on the root causes of corporate dithering. Here are some of the themes that emerged: Innovations that don’t create jobs pay off more quickly Clayton Christensen, the Harvard economist famed for his research on disruptive innovation, said there are three types of innovation: 1) empowering innovations, which transform products that were historically complicated and accessible only to the rich; 2) sustaining innovations that make products better but don’t create new jobs (take for instance, Toyota’s invention of the Prius); and 3) efficiency innovations that reduce jobs in the economy. (MORE ON DAVOS: Four Keys to Decoding the World Economic Forum) Christensen explained that, even in an era of cheap cash, companies are still leaning on efficiency innovations because they pay off in the short-term (2 to 3 years) whereas empowering innovations take 5 to 10 years to pay off. Meanwhile, companies have felt pressured to follow the efficiency innovations coming out of Asia, according to panelist Anand Mahindra, CEO of India’s Mahindra and Mahindra. In India, “innovation is about a philosophy

Cellrox Secures $4.7M Led by Runa Capital For Its BYOD Virtualization Solution

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Investors can’t seem to get enough of the BYOD trend of late. Today sees another ‘bring your own device’ startup receive funding — Tel Aviv-based Cellrox, which claims to be a leader in BYOD ‘multi-persona’ solutions for mobile devices, has raised a $4.7 million series A round led by Runa Capital, with participation from existing investors Previz Venture Partners, Columbia Technology Ventures, and others.

The company’s previous funding is undisclosed so it’s hard to peg the total amount raised to date (though we can probably add just a few hundred thousands), while Cellrox says the new capital will be used to “extend its collaboration with OEMs and operators for installation in tier-one enterprises around the world”.

Like other companies in the space, Cellrox’s solution helps corporations manage the increasingly diverse portfolio of devices being pushed inside their walls via workers bringing their own device, in this case smartphones and tablets, therefore displacing the top-down prescriptive IT department model of yesteryear — see Forrester’s recent report on mobile adoption in the enterprise which found that 66 percent of employees now use two or more devices every day, including desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets.

Specifically, Cellrox’s technology employs virtualization to let employees and corporations share a single fully functional mobile device without compromising security, performance or user experience. It does this by supporting two or more separate and complete OS installations on a single Android device, therefore creating what the company claims is an “impenetrable wall between the employee’s applications and the company’s data and applications”. It dubs this one phone with two or more “personas” which can be switched with a single swipe. Cellrox says that it’s this virtualization approach that sets it apart from other BYOD-management players.

In a statement, Omer Eiferman, CEO of Cellrox, talks up the BYOD opportunity for the company in 2013, citing an “increased focus on mobile vulnerabilities, employee privacy and device performance”.

Dmitry Chikhachev, managing partner at Runa Capital, which has a specialism of investing in virtualization, cloud and mobile companies, notes in a statement that “the future for mobile virtualization is even broader compared to servers and desktop virtualization”.

Cellrox was founded in 2011 and is headquartered in Tel Aviv, Israel.

TestObject Raises $1.4M For Its Automated Android App Testing In The Cloud

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TestObject, which offers a cloud-based service for the automated testing of Android apps, has raised funding from Frühphasenfonds Brandenburg, an initiative of the Investitionsbank Brandenburg, and S&S Media’s investment arm, West TechVentures. The amount is being disclosed simply as a ‘seven digit’ investment, though TechCrunch has learned that the size of the round is €1.1m (~$1.46m).

The new capital will be used to help the young, Berlin-based startup to develop and market its technology, which promises to increase the speed and efficiency of testing mobile apps.

Fragmentation in the Android ecosystem is potentially a big headache for developers, with a multitude of devices, OS versions and customisations to contend with. Getting an app to run smoothly across various configurations is both costly and time consuming, requiring many hours of manual testing as part of the QA process — presuming, of course, that you have access to each and every Android device and OS version being targeted.

That’s the problem that TestObject is setting out to solve. Its cloud service enables developers to set up automated testing of their apps, remotely, on a range of supported Android-based smartphones and tablets. They simply upload their app, record a test by interacting with it as a user would, and the system tracks this interaction and uses it as the basis to create a script which automates carrying out the same test across multiple devices hosted in the cloud. After the test, TestObject delivers a detailed report with the results, while the service is billed based on minutes used and on the number of tested devices.

Competitor-wise, there’s Germany’s testCloud, which takes a slightly different approach to multi-device testing by employing the crowd instead of automation. Similarly, U.S.-based uTest also takes a manual approach with its crowd of 60,000 ‘professional’ testers, as does Bangalore’s 99tests.

US Government Still Leaning On Europe To Dilute Data Protection Reform Proposals

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The U.S. government is continuing to lobby Brussels to water down plans to reform privacy legislation. The European Union’s executive and legislative bodies are in the process of reforming the region’s data protection rules — a long overdue wrangle since current legislation dates back to 1995, when Facebook was not even a gleam in 11-year-old Mark Zuckerberg’s eye.

The Europe Commission proposed new rules last January — setting out its intention to harmonize data protection rules across EU member states, by establishing a single national data protection authority, and also give citizens more control over their data, including granting people the right to have data that companies and organisations hold on them deleted on request  (a so called ‘right to be forgotten’), and a right to have their data ported to another service. Data holders would also have to notify service users of serious data breaches — “if feasible within 24 hours”. Other proposals include requirements for companies to have a data protection officer to oversee compliance.

The new rules would apply to any companies and organisations processing EU citizens’ data — even if they are entirely based outside the EU. To enforce the new rules, the EC is proposing to strengthen independent national data protection authorities, including giving them the ability to fine companies up to €1 million ($1.27 million) or up to 2 percent of their global annual turnover.

The proposals have now reached the European Parliament committee debate stage, with draft reports produced by committee rapporteurs last week. There’s still a way to go before agreement is reached between all 27 EU member states enabling new legislation to be adopted — so there is still time for lobbyists to keep aggitating.

European digital and civil rights association, the EDRi, has obtained a copy of what is purported to be the latest U.S. government lobby document (online here) — a document which calls on Europe to be more “flexible” in its approach, and warns that the reforms risk stifling innovation and growth, and jeopardizing the free-flow of information needed to fight crime and terrorism.

The document warns:

It goes on to urge that the proposals be “revised to ensure that security and commerce are not adversely affected”.

The general thrust of the argument set out in the document is that the US does not want to be beholden to European policy decisions on privacy — favouring “interoperability” of respective privacy frameworks. There’s also an implied threat that trade and commerce between the US and Europe could suffer if the reforms themselves are not reformed.

“Interoperability of our respective privacy regimes is critical to maintaining our extraordinary economic relationship, fostering trade and preventing non-tariff barriers, and unlocking the full potential for our economic innovation and growth,” the document states. “We urge the EU to look more toward outcomes that provide meaningful protection for privacy and focus less on formalistic requirements.”

The document, which runs to five pages, goes on to address specific portions of the proposed EU legislation — arguing that standards developed through “voluntary consensus-based multi-stakeholder processes” are a better alternative to regulation where the internet is concerned, as they are more “flexible” and “adaptable to a quickly changing technological environment”. It also argues that user consent for use of personal data “need not always be express, affirmative consent” and that the scope of consent-based options that are offered to users should correlate with the “scale, scope, and sensitivity of the personal data that organizations collect, use, or disclose”.

On the ‘right to be forgotten’ and the ‘right to erasure’ the U.S. warns the EU to make modifications to “avoid hampering the ability to innovate, compete and participate in the global economy”. “For example, we suggest that the EU reconsider the feasibility of placing obligations on a data controller for publications made by others after consent is withdrawn,” it notes, going on to voice concerns that rights to freedom of expression might suffer under the current proposals.

The document also argues that the proposed 24 hours data breach notification law is not a long enough period for organizations to comply — and might also lead to over-notifications, causing consumers to ignore them or act unnecessarily on erroneous information.

A very large portion of the document is given over to concerns about the impact of the proposals on the global transfer of data and free flow of information — with the US lobbyists apparently arguing that EU proposals could have “disastrous ramifications” for regulators, law enforcement authorities and litigants in civil cases.

Assuming the document is genuine, it suggests the US government is continuing to lobby Brussels to dilute its proposals. Last October TechWeekEurope reported that the US Chamber of Commerce was lobbying European politicians to alter the proposed new rules on behalf of the U.S. government.  Adam Schlosser, senior manager for global regulatory cooperation at the Chamber of Commerce, told the publication it had been engaged in lobbying since March, with a taskforce of around 50 staff engaged on the issue.

“Some of the biggest concerns are providing flexibility for different business models, allowing for compliance with existing legal obligations (such as anti-fraud) both in the EU and in third countries, and actually creating a ‘one-stop shop’ that is predictable and consistent across member states,” Schlosser told TechWeekEurope in October. He described progress as “incremental”, adding: The business community will need sustained and continued efforts to develop a pragmatic approach that considers how a final regulation can actually work in the real world.”

At the time of writing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had not responded to a request for an update on its current position regarding the EU privacy reforms.

Facebook has also been lobbying Europe about the reforms — with its own (smaller) team of lobbyists based in Brussels — calling aspects of the proposals such as the right to be forgotten unreasonable and unrealistic. But it’s not just big tech companies that are voicing opposition. ACT, the Association for Competitive Technology — an international non-profit association/advocacy group for startup-sized small and medium sized businesses such as mobile software developers — has also been lobbying Brussels on aspects of the reform that it believes would have a negative impact on startup businesses in the region.

“The Commission views startups as lifeforms that don’t communicate with bigger businesses,” EU spokesman for ACT, Greg Polad, told TechCrunch.

A particular bone of contention for ACT is that the latest amendments to the proposals — in the European Parliament draft committee reports — removed prior exemptions for SMEs to employ a data protection officer, replacing it with an exemption for companies that deal with fewer than 500 data points/subjects, a limit Polad describes as “ridiculously small”.

Another admin and cost burden that SMEs could face as a result of the proposed legislation is a requirement for a business to pre-emptively conduct privacy impact assessments if it deals with certain types of data — an up front cost which Polad argues could disuade startups from trying to build their businesses in Europe.

“If you’re saying to startups you have X, Y and Z costs to think about before you start operating then you’re not helping them to enter the market, and you’re most definitely not helping them to innovate and try and test out and experiment on the market,” he argues.

Mario Draghi: The Man Who Would Save Europe

There is one reality for bankers, another for the rest of us. That is the lesson most easily drawn from the Jan. 10 press conference of the European Central Bank (ECB). Just hours earlier, Greece had released its latest labor statistics: a steep overall jobless rate of 26.8% masking even worse news for young Greeks, with over half of them — an astonishing 56.6% — out of work. The human toll of the country’s struggle to avoid a ragged departure from the European single currency could scarcely be starker. In 2012 the 17-nation euro zone lost more than 2 million jobs as it grappled with its fierce debt crisis. Yet the mood at the ECB, and especially of its president Mario Draghi, appeared chipper, at least by the sobersided standards of the institution and the office holder. “We spoke a lot about contagion when things go poorly, but I believe there is a positive contagion when things go well,” he said. “And I think that’s also what is in play now. There is a positive contagion.” Superimpose Draghi’s optimistic picture on the harsh experiences of Greece and Spain, where unemployment is also hovering around 25%, and you get something akin to a drawing by Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher: a mind-bending construct with stairs that lead nowhere and architecture ignoring the laws of physics and common sense. That is a pretty accurate portrait of the euro zone and the wider E.U. How you see it depends on your viewing angle, but from no perspective does it make complete sense. Small wonder that increasing numbers of people, especially in debt-blighted European countries, are coming to believe the only solution is to raze the crazy structures and start afresh. (SPECIAL: Mario Draghi – The World’s 100 Most Influential People) But that won’t happen if Draghi has anything to do with it. Last year the 65-year-old Italian economist found himself — to the slow-dawning appreciation of governments and bankers from Beijing to Washington — the most prominent and powerful defender of European integration.

Mobile Ad Revenues Will Top $11.4 Billion In 2013, Up 19% On 2012. India, China And Display Fuelling The Boost

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The growing popularity of free mobile content — largely in the form of apps — is having a big impact on mobile advertising, the route that many developers and publishers are taking to monetize that content. Gartner has released its forecasts for mobile advertising today, and it predicts that this year, mobile ads will collectively bring in $11.4 billion in revenues, a rise of 18.75% on 2012′s $9.6 billion.

With that growth will also come an evolution in what kind of ads are doing best: display ads will grow faster than search and eventually over take them, says Gartner. But other things will not change. The Asia Pacific region will keep its dominant position in mobile ads in 2013, and for the next three years to come, as the global market for mobile ads grows by a further 400% between now and 2016 to $24.5 billion.

Gartner, it should be pointed out, first published these projections in November 2012, but has actually revised them up. ”The mobile advertising market took off even faster than we expected due to an increased uptake in smartphones and tablets, as well as the merger of consumer behaviors on computers and mobile devices,” writes Stephanie Baghdassarian, research director at Gartner.

The growth of display advertising against search ads is down to a few different factors. The first of these is the increasing ubiquity of smartphones, and smartphone-like feature phones: while there is still an issue that one in every five smartphone owners never uses their device for anything other than basic voice and text, those that are using them for other services are proving to be voracious consumers of apps and mobile internet. That rise in usage means more eyeballs and more inventory for advertisers to fill.

“Smartphones and media tablets extend the addressable market for mobile advertising in more and more geographies as an increasing population of users spends an increasing share of its time with these devices,” writes Andrew Frank, research VP at Gartner. That usage, Gartner says, is currently very strong in native apps, although Gartner is in the camp of people who believe that mobile internet, and web apps, will ultimately become the more popular format over native apps.

The second trend is the fact that there are a number of new ad units that are rolling out to made the display ad experience more engaging: whether it is through reward schemes, or less invasive ways of serving those ads, these are, by many accounts, getting more people clicking on display ads, and more advertisers investing in using them.

The third is the decline of more traditional advertising, for example in newspapers and magazines. As these mediums get used less by consumers, media buyers and brands are turning to the places where consumers are reading more: tablets and smartphones. ”Growth in mobile advertising comes in part at the expense of print formats, especially local newspapers, which currently face much lower ad yields as a result of mobile publishing initiatives,” writes Baghdassarian.

But this does not mean search is disappearing — far from it. The rise of more integrated and functional maps, for example, will give that ad unit another big boost, as more brands and businesses look to buy paid placements on mapping apps. Gartner also highlights augmented reality as a rising category — but I personally remain skeptical that for now this is not more than a nice technology.  

In terms of regional domination, Gartner points out an interesting shift taking place in Asia Pacific.

Whereas in the past the region was strong because of Japan and South Korea — two relatively small but early-adopting, mobile-crazy countries — its continuing prominence won’t be solely because of that. It will be down to China and India, two of the world’s biggest mobile markets, where we are seeing a big surge for smartphones and mobile data usage among a “growing middle class” of users.

North America and Western Europe, Gartner says, will “close the gap” on Asia with what Gartner refers to as “360-degree advertising campaigns.” This is another term for the kind of advertising that Google is also pushing, with the idea that ads can follow you regardless of what device you happen to be using. (Creepy but possibly useful too.) Growth in the emerging regions of  Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa will be led by gains in the big markets of Russia and Brazil, as well as Mexico. 

Mobile Advertising Revenue by Region, Worldwide, 2012-2016

(Millions of Dollars)

2012

2013

2014

2016

North America

3,181.5

3,825.7

4,694.9

8,866.2

Western Europe

1,600.5

1,941.4

2,367.8

4,445.4

Asia/Pacific and Japan

4,333.0

4,864.9

5,506.7

9,480.2

Rest of the World

644.1

788.0

960.6

1,768.3

Total

9,759.1

11,420.0

13,530.0

24,560.1

Source: Gartner (November 2012)

Photo: Flickr

Nokia Cuts 300 Jobs, Outsources Up To 820 More To HCL And Tata To ‘Align IT With Its Business Focus’

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Here’s the cloud to Nokia’s silver lining statement the other day of better than expected handset sales: it is cutting IT 300 jobs, and outsourcing 850 more, with Indian outsourcing giants HCL and Tata Consultancy Services picking up the reigns for the latter. The news was announced this morning by the company as it gears up to report Q1 results January 24.

Nokia says that these are part of a bigger set of cost reductions that it announced in June 2012. At the time it had announced it would lay of 10,000 people as part of that process.

Nokia says that these are the final layoffs related to that announcement. But that doesn’t mean that it’s finished cost cutting altogether; there may yet be further cuts as the company continues to reduce costs and downsize to fit the fact that it is no longer the world’s biggest handset maker, and that its device sales have, overall, declined significantly in the last several years. Nokia has in total laid off nearly 16,000 people in its mobile and location division since CEO Stephen Elop took over in 2010; it now has around 44,600 employees working in it.

There are small signs that Nokia is slowing turning things around: on January 10, the company released preliminary Q4 numbers that indicated that it had sold 4.4 million units of its new line of Lumia Windows Phone devices in the quarter, roughly twice the number of smartphones built on its legacy Symbian platform that it has slowly been phasing out of use. But given that the quarter covering Thanksgiving and Christmas is traditionally a strong period for handset makers, Nokia also warned of tough times in Q1 .

While June’s announcement referred to jobs in handset operations in Canada, German and its home market of Finland, today’s round of cuts is around the company’s IT operations, which are now being right-sized to the new remit of the company, Nokia says.

“Nokia believes these changes will increase operational efficiency and reduce operating costs, creating an IT organization appropriate for Nokia’s current size and scope,” the company writes in its statement. The majority of these cuts announced today will be in Finland.

As with those engineers and others that have already been cut from operations like Nokia’s now-outsourced Symbian mobile platform, and its abandoned MeeGo effort, IT employees, it says, will also be eligible for funds from its Bridge program — an incubator Nokia has created specifically for funding laid off workers’ ideas for new businesses. Employees get €25,000 to start, with the possibility of funding up to $185,000.

Full statement below. More to come. Refresh for updates

Nokia to align IT function with its business focus

– Planned changes are part of Nokia’s focused strategy announced in June 2012

– Nokia plans to transfer some activities and employees to strategic partners

Espoo, Finland – Nokia outlined a range of planned changes today to streamline its IT organization. Nokia believes these changes will increase operational efficiency and reduce operating costs, creating an IT organization appropriate for Nokia’s current size and scope.

As part of the planned changes, Nokia plans to transfer certain activities and up to 820 employees to HCL Technologies and TATA Consultancy Services.

Nokia also plans to reduce its global IT organization by up to 300 employees. Nokia will offer employees affected by these planned reductions both financial support and a comprehensive Bridge support program. These are the last anticipated reductions as part of Nokia’s focused strategy announcement of June 2012.

The majority of the employees affected by these planned changes are based in Finland. Nokia is beginning the process of engaging with employee representatives on these plans in accordance with country-specific legal requirements..

About Nokia
Nokia is a global leader in mobile communications whose products have become an integral part of the lives of people around the world. Every day, more than 1.3 billion people use their Nokia to capture and share experiences, access information, find their way or simply to speak to one another. Nokia’s technological and design innovations have made its brand one of the most recognized in the world. For more information, visit http://www.nokia.com/about-nokia.

Bango Adds Telefonica To Its List Of Mobile Carrier Billing Partners For Facebook And Beyond

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Mobile payments company Bango — partner to Facebook, Amazon, BlackBerry and others to enable app and content charges directly to your mobile phone bill — has announced another major carrier partner: Telefonica is enabling Bango payments via its payment API.

The global deal (RNS statement embedded below) will mean that developers who make apps for Telefonica’s 314 million subscribers will be able to integrate a single API into their apps and mobile websites to enable two-click carrier payments across app stores in Bango’s network. These include Facebook’s App Center, Google Play, BlackBerry App World, Amazon’s Appstore, Windows Phone Store, Opera’s app store and an upcoming app storefront that Bango says it’s keeping under wraps for now. (My guess: an app storefront for Firefox Mobile, since Telefonica is a partner in that venture, but who knows — maybe it’s Apple finally coming around to carrier billing…)

This deal builds on the news from July 2012 that Telefonica had signed global agreements with Google, Facebook, Microsoft and RIM for billing content on their app stores. Meanwhile, Bango also counts France Telecom among its other carrier customers.

Financial terms of this new deal were not disclosed, nor were its revenue-sharing/commission details, which Telefonica says will vary on a country-by-country, store-by-store basis.

Bango is not Telefonica’s first carrier billing partner. It also works with Boku, which received a $35 million strategic investment led by the carrier last year. Jose Valles, the head of BlueVia at Telefonica Digital, says that working with one does not cancel out the other.

“This is not exclusive,” he said in an interview with TechCrunch. “This is about enhancing the ecosystem. Not all companies work with Bango and not all companies work with Boku, so we will be collaborating with both of them.”

Nor is the the first time the two have worked together. Bango first provided Telefonica with a carrier billing solution some 10 years ago (without the use of an API to interconnect to third party sites).

Although Telefonica has been offering carrier billing for a while now via its own payment APIs, the difference here is that Bango has already forged the deals with multiple app store providers. This makes its single API more powerful and less complicated to implement.

“It gives us a focus on app stores and frictionless, low-click payments,” said Matt Dicks, head of marketing for Blue Via, Telefonica’s developer platform. “That’s not what telcos do very well.” Blue Via is integrating Bango’s API with other APIs that link into Telefonica services, such as messaging, VoIP and more.

Bango says that apps and other content enabled with carrier billing have a 77 percent conversion rate, compared to 40 percent for content that requires credit card or other payment information. But there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to make carrier billing ubiquitous and used more.

“The big Internet companies are still not fully engaged about the opportunity with operator billing,” admitted Anil Malhotra, VP of strategic partnerships for Bango. In that sense, these deals work both ways for Bango. The more carrier partners it racks up, the more likely companies like Twitter, Nintendo and Sony will also integrate billing into their services — if and when such a need arises.

That is also boosted by another initiative launched by Telefonica — to integrate more carriers onto its API platform. The first of these is Telenor, with more expected to be announced in due course.

“BlueVia is a bold and valuable initiative by Telefonica to establish a unified set of billing APIs. We will standardize on BlueVia to connect with Telefonica’s 314 million subscribers around the world and look forward to welcoming other operators who join this initiative, as Telenor has done,” said Bango CEO Ray Anderson in a statement.

Although the opportunity for carrier billing is one that applies to any market, one of the big aims in this deal in particular is for emerging markets in Telefonica’s footprint — specifically Latin America.

In countries like El Salvador, Venezuela and Brazil, credit and debit card penetration is relatively low, so Telefonica, developers and others in the app ecosystem need other routes for payments. This is where carrier billing perhaps comes into its own, as a mass infrastructure for the “next billion” smartphone users to make mobile content purchases on their devices.

Release below.

Bango and Telefónica announce global mobile payments partnership

Cambridge and Madrid, January 17th, 2013. Bango (AIM: BGO), the mobile payments and analytics company, and Telefónica Digital today announce that they have signed a Global Framework Agreement. The two companies will partner globally to create an enhanced direct-to-bill payment experience for mobile app stores. The partnership will combine Bango’s frictionless payment experience with Telefónica’s BlueVia Payment APIs, connecting over 314 million chargeable customers worldwide to the Bango Payments Platform.

The ability to pay for digital goods and services via a mobile phone bill or prepay credit is a key way for content owners and developers to fully monetize their products. This is especially the case in developing markets, such as Latin America, where penetration of bank accounts and credit cards is very low. Trials of direct to bill in Telefónica operating businesses have proven its ability to drive sales. Where Bango has introduced operator billing to developed markets with high credit card penetration, sales of digital goods have increased significantly.

By integrating the single BlueVia billing API into the Bango Payments Platform app stores will benefit from Bango’s enhanced user experience for mobile devices, which generates higher payment conversion rates, especially from Wi-Fi-connected and other “off-network” devices. This is particularly important for the future of mobile payments as more than half of smartphones browsing app stores use Wi-Fi connections.

A key goal of the partnership is to accelerate the availability of a standardized and open payment platform for all app stores and content providers and to dramatically improve the customer experience. The platform will be available to all app stores, supporting operator-billing and other payment methods through a single, common platform. The advantage to the customer is a seamless payment flow with no requirement to enter personal information or leave the payment session.

As well as technology to improve the user experience, Bango is contributing to the partnership its market-leading expertise in managing payments at mass scale, developed over several years with industry-leading partners such as RIM, Facebook, Opera and others. The Bango platform expands the attractiveness of operator billing to third parties by automating all settlement processes, including tax reconciliation, local currency support and providing sophisticated analytics and reporting that enable App Stores to optimize the mobile user experience.

Telefónica is rolling out direct to bill capabilities in its operating businesses and earlier this year announced global, framework agreements with Facebook, Google, Microsoft and RIM.

Bango CEO Ray Anderson commented that “Telefonica and Bango share a strategic vision: to widen access to paid content by standardizing and simplifying operator-billed mobile payments. BlueVia is a bold and valuable initiative by Telefonica to establish a unified set of billing APIs. We will standardize on BlueVia to connect with Telefónica’s 314 million subscribers around the world and look forward to welcoming other operators who join this initiative, as Telenor has done”.

Speaking for Telefónica Digital, Jose Valles, Head of BlueVia, said: “At the heart of every great service is first class customer experience and both Bango and BlueVia share the vision that mobile payments must be seamless and low friction for the customer. Through this partnership, we are delivering a mobile billing ecosystem that empowers the app store and content owners to achieve mass scale in their business through global reach and a payment method far broader than credit cards”.

The partnership between Telefónica and Bango was negotiated by Telefónica’s Financial Services and Global Partnership teams, based in Madrid and Silicon Valley and headed by Joaquín Mata and Wayne Thorsen, respectively.

Photo: Flickr