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Amazon Launches ‘Coins’ Virtual Currency | PCMag.com

Amazon today launched its virtual currency program, dubbed Amazon Coins.

To kick things off, Amazon is providing all Kindle Fire owners with 500 free Amazon Coins, which are worth $5. “You can use the coins to buy apps and games, as well as items inside apps and games,” Amazon said in a note on its homepage.

Amazon also said Amazon Coins are available to purchase at a discount, for savings of up to 10 percent depending on how many coins you purchase.

Amazon is offering 500 Coins for $4.80, for example. Users can also purchase them in increments of 1,000 ($9.50), 2,500 ($23), 5,000 ($45), or 10,000 ($90). Amazon said the Coins do not expire, and do not include any fees.

“From Cut the Rope: Time Travel to Scribblenauts Remix, you’ll find plenty of fun to choose from, and the selection is growing every day. Selection has tripled over the last year, with 25 percent more in the last three months alone,” Amazon said.

When buying apps and games, users will be given the option to purchase with a credit card or via Amazon Coins.

Amazon first announced plans for Coins in early February.

Amazon said at the time that Coins will provide new opportunities for developers, who will earn the standard 70 percent revenue share when customers make purchases using the virtual currency. Developers with apps and games already in the U.S.

via Amazon Launches ‘Coins’ Virtual Currency | News & Opinion | PCMag.com.

via Amazon Launches ‘Coins’ Virtual Currency | News & Opinion | PCMag.com.

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Amazon Launches ‘Coins’ Virtual Currency

 

Amazon Launches ‘Coins’ Virtual Currency

Amazon today launched its virtual currency program, dubbed Amazon Coins.  To kick things off, Amazon is providing all Kindle Fire owners with 500 free Amazon Coins, which are worth $5. “You can use the coins to buy apps and games, as well as items inside apps and games,” Amazon said in a note on its homepage.

Amazon also said Amazon Coins are available to purchase at a discount, for savings of up to 10 percent depending on how many coins you purchase.

Amazon is offering 500 Coins for $4.80, for example. Users can also purchase them in increments of 1,000 ($9.50), 2,500 ($23), 5,000 ($45), or 10,000 ($90). Amazon said the Coins do not expire, and do not include any fees.
When buying apps and games, users will be given the option to purchase with a credit card or via Amazon Coins.

Amazon first announced plans for Coins in early February.

Amazon said at the time that Coins will provide new opportunities for developers, who will earn the standard 70 percent revenue share when customers make purchases using the virtual currency. Developers with apps and games already in the U.S.

“Developers continue to report higher conversion rates on Amazon compared to other platforms,” Paul Ryder, vice president of apps and games for Amazon, said in a statement. “Now we have another new way to help developers reach even more of our millions of customers. Amazon Coins gives customers an easy way to spend money on developers’ apps on Kindle Fire in the Amazon Appstore.”

The move came at a time when other companies were phasing out the use of virtual currency. In October, Microsoft confirmed that it will be phasing out the use of Microsoft Points in Windows 8. In June 2012, meanwhile, Facebook announced plans to ditch its Credits platform in favor of local currencies and allow app developers to offer in-app subscriptions.

In January, Amazon announced plans to extend its in-app purchasing service — already available for the Kindle Fire $159.00 at Amazon and other Android devices — to cover Mac, PC, and Web-based gaming platforms.

We Can See Mobile Payments from Here! — Payments Views from Glenbrook Partners

I attended the Mobile Contactless Payment Innovation Summit in San Francisco last week. The audience included representatives from payments companies, enablers, solution providers and merchants all engaged in mobile payments. Given the constant rate of innovation in mobile payments and recent network incentives for EMV in the US, there was a great deal to talk about.

At Glenbrook we help companies across the payments value chain to understand the future of the market; both the rate of adoption and the value proposition of new offerings are critical. As a result, I was delighted to moderate a panel on mobile and contactless payment innovation with panelists Marc Warshawsky of Bank of America, Peter Ho of Wells Fargo, Ed Busby from ISIS and Oscar Muñoz from CHARGE Anywhere.

Here are some key issues discussed both by the panel and at the event:

Heightened Expectations – As mobile smartphone adoption has exploded, the expectation of mobile payments has grown exponentially. Yet challenges related to technology standards, business models and merchant implementations have slowed progress. Some felt the problem is in consumer education and adoption , but clearly the mobile value proposition has yet to be discovered and defined.

Role of NFC – Throughout the conference, there were vocal detractors and advocates for NFC. Visa, MC and Discover have each laid out a contactless roadmap, providing financial incentives for merchants to deploy contactless (NFC) terminals. The technology is reasonably mature and effective with extensive trials around the globe; ISIS and Google Wallet are examples in the US. Trials demonstrate consistent consumer enthusiasm but handset manufacturers still rarely have NFC chips in new phone models. Why the delay? Most think the problem is in the business model. As long as carriers, handset manufacturers and banks are unclear on how they will realize incremental revenues from mobile payment, there is a hesitation to deploy at scale.

Mobile beyond NFC – Patrick Gauthier from PayPal started his presentation emphasizing the difference between NFC and mobile wallets. He demonstrated that there are other ways to access the wallet. With more active accounts than American Express has cards in hand, PayPal’s cloud-based model is a significant alternative to the physical card-centric NFC approach. Peter Ho discussed Wells Fargo’s experiences with using In2Pay microSD card for Visa payWave transactions attached to a Wells Fargo account as compared to NFC. Either technology supports the desired interaction and he suggested the decisions were more around creating the right consumer experience. Other alternatives to NFC include the barcode model (also known as the Starbucks Example). One constraint to adoption of mobile is the speed at which merchants can implement the technology at POS. Merchants have to sort through the hype, identify mandates and ultimately prioritize their investments.

Are we just sticking a credit card on the phone? – Card issuers in particular were concerned with enabling card transactions over the phone. These models are expensive to merchants as they move card present, in store transactions to what they expect will be card not present interchange. So is there value in a mobile transaction and perhaps even room for more fees? Value in a mobile payment needs to be found in the added functionality brought from the phone. Location, data, computing power and Internet capabilities augment the in-store transaction. Bill Gajda from Visa was clear “it’s about more than replacing a swipe with a tap”.

via We Can See Mobile Payments from Here! — Payments Views from Glenbrook Partners.

via We Can See Mobile Payments from Here! — Payments Views from Glenbrook Partners.

Zigging and Zagging toward Mobile Payments in the US — Payments Views from Glenbrook Partners

The common wisdom around mobile payments in the US is that they will be based upon card credentials electronically inserted into secure elements in new mobile handsets that will talk to new POS terminals capable of supporting NFC or contactless payment technology. There’s been lots of activity – and accompanying industry forecasts about how we’re on the cusp of a new world of mobile payments based on NFC/contactless technology.

Almost a year ago, three of the mobile network operators in the US – Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile – announced Isis, an NFC-based approach that was going to create a new payments network to rival the payments incumbents. Post-Durbin and after listening a bit to the marketplace, Isis modified its strategy to be much more accommodating to the existing payment networks – while still remaining very NFC-centric. As a result, the major networks agreed to cooperate – time will tell exactly what that means. Trials begin in 2012.

In May, Google announced it was partnering with Citibank, MasterCard, First Data and others to launch an NFC-based Offers and Wallet – based on this technology approach. The only wrinkle in Google’s approach is that it decided that it (and not a card network, a card issuer or a wireless operator or a consortium like Isis) would manage the keys to the secure element in each handset. Google also introduced a nifty concept called SingleTap that would enable a new kind of offer redemption process at the time of payment – for those merchants who agree to deploy Google’s proprietary SingleTap POS technology.

In August, Visa announced its support for nudging this POS upgrade process along by defining a multi-year program designed to transition the US POS infrastructure from mag stripe-based today to both EMV contact and NFC/contactless technologies over the next several years.

That’s seemingly the current state of play with respect to the NFC-based approach to mobile. Everything seems to need changing – the mobile handsets, the POS terminals, along with new operational systems being required to manage and control this fundamentally different payments ecosystem. And, of course, the consumer will have to be educated and understand how all of this works – perhaps by their mobile carrier, or their issuer, or the card networks. It’s fair to say that it’s yet to be seen how that might evolve.

via Zigging and Zagging toward Mobile Payments in the US — Payments Views from Glenbrook Partners.

Square’s Disruptive New iPad Payments Service Will Replace Cash Registers

Mobile payments startup Square is announcing big numbers today—500,000 Square card readers shipped, 1 million Square transactions in May, and the startup is now processing $3 million in mobile payments per day. Clearly the company is on a roll in terms of traction and usage. And CEO Jack Dorsey is also revealing the next generation of Square. And Square is about to get a whole lot more disruptive.Today, Dorsey is revealing Square Register, a high-powered point of sale replacement for cash registers and point of sale terminals. And the company is taking it one step further for consumers by launching the Square Card Case, a way for purchasers to access a local merchants’ goods, prices, location, loyalty card and more.For background, Square offers an iPhone, Android and iPad app which allows merchants to process and manage credit card transactions with a handy little credit card swiping device that plugs into the headset/microphone jack. The device and service is the brainchild of Twitter co-founder and recently appointed product lead Jack Dorsey and Jim McKelvey. And Square recently raised $27.5 million in new funding, and announced a strategic investment from credit card company Visa. In Q1, Square did $66 million in payment volume the company expected $40 million and is now in track to process $1 billion in payment volume within a year.

via Square’s Disruptive New iPad Payments Service Will Replace Cash Registers.

Catching the Next Big Wave of Revolutionary Wealth Creation

As a student in the 1960‘s there was a whiff of revolution in the air that spread from college campuses to the mainstream media and ultimately to the corridors of power in Washington.  Those were heady times. We felt we were part of the process of making history. More recently as a technology writer I’ve been witness to another kind of revolution – the creation of some game changing technologies and the amazing enterprises that grew out of them.  In 2000, while researching a story on Google, I caught glimpses of this revolution during interviews with Google’s founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and investors, John Doerr, Michael Moritz, Ram Shriram, Andy Bechtolsheim, David Cheritan.  These are the new titans of technology.  They’re all billionaires these days, largely because of their willingness to place big bets during the early stage of the revolution.  Over the last ten years, while interviewing hundreds of venture capitalists, angel investors, bankers and and investment bankers, I’ve learned that there are two questions are ever present on every tech investor’s mind, “What’s the next wave and how can I catch it?”

Beneath the radar, another revolutionary wave of wealth creation is approaching so fast that few yet appreciate it’s true  potential.  Legendary investor John Doerr, who backed Google, AOL, Amazon, Sun and many others, said recently, “Energy is the mother of all markets.” Okay,  but if that’s true, than what’s the “father of all markets?”  What will be the catalyst to the next wave of wealth creation?

Because the money and banking sector is so massive, and so fundamental to all other sectors,  it’s easy to see it as the father of all markets. But this perspective is lost on most tech investors because few of them understand how the money and banking sector works.  Tech investors tend towards a pack investing mentality, investing primarily in what they understand.  Because they are so myopically focused on the echo chamber of retread ideas, will they miss the next big wave of wealth creation?

Inside Philanthropy: Philanthropy boosts marketplace of ideas

In the shadows of the battered U.S. auto industry, United Way for Southeastern Michigan is getting $27.1 million from General Motors to help five area high schools boost their graduation rates and help rebuild the region’s skilled workforce.

In North Carolina’s self-wounded banking capital, a group of seven foundations has pledged a total of $40.5 million for a $55 million effort to improve the lowest-performing schools in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

In North Carolina’s politically- and demographically-torn capital, the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce and the Wake Education Partnership have released a consultant’s student-assignment plan for the Wake County schools that aims to balance students’ choice in attending schools near their homes with the need to maintain diversity in the schools.

And in five or six of North Carolina’s poorest counties, the Winston-Salem-based Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust for the first time will focus half the $18 million to $19 million in health funds it has to invest throughout the entire state each year, with the goal of strengthening the work of a broad range of local organizations that can help improve health in those mainly rural counties.

All those efforts are rooted in an abiding belief in the very idea of community, the idea that we sink or swim together and that fixing problems requires a broad range of voices, resources and players working for a shared goal.

Trying to spur change in those communities is the philanthropic sector – United Way and a major corporation in Detroit, charitable foundations in Charlotte, business leaders and a local education fund in Raleigh, and a charitable foundation in some of North Carolina’s poorest counties.

The goal of those and a growing number of other philanthropic investors throughout the U.S. is to serve as a catalyst, trying to spur change and make a difference by working in partnership with government, business and nonprofits to address needs that affect the entire community.

via Inside Philanthropy: Philanthropy boosts marketplace of ideas.