Facebook unveiled a software suite overnight which stakes out a "home" on Android smartphones as it steps up its challenge to Apple and Google in the booming mobile market.
Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said the new software weaves the social network into the home screen of HTC and Samsung phones powered by the latest versions of Android to focus experiences on "people and not apps."
"We’re not building a phone and we’re not building an operating system, but we are building something that’s a lot deeper than an app," Zuckerberg told a gathering at the company’s headquarters in Silicon Valley.
Facebook called the new software "a new way to turn your Android phone into a great, living, social phone."
The software, which allows users to see Facebook’s "Cover Feed" when they turn on their phones, will be available for download from Google’s online Play shop in the United States starting April 12, Zuckerberg said.
A version should be available in Europe in coming months, according to Facebook, which said it is in the process of tailoring "Home" for tablet computers.
Some of the ingredients to success include ads that play on the unique properties of mobile gadgets, including location, or ads disguised as a game, coupon or information that consumers want, say ad executives and industry observers.
What doesn’t work? The same old Web ads plopped into a smartphone.
Mobile advertising has been touted as the next big thing since Apple’s iPhone debuted in 2007. Yet the promise remained unfulfilled because marketing companies have to navigate consumers’ desires for privacy with the enticements mobile devices offer, such as fresh information about users’ location and spending habits.
Accidental clicks on mobile ads, difficulties buying ads in big quantities, and fuzzy metrics also have kept a lid on mobile ad spending, marketers said.
This year, research firm eMarketer Inc. projects less than 2% of all U.S. marketing spending, or just $2.6 billion, to go toward mobile advertising. Meanwhile, consumers using smartphones and tablets now generate more than 10% of Internet traffic, according to data provider StatCounter Inc.
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Google’s mobile payment system, Google Wallet, is now available to the public — for people who use Sprint Nexus S 4G phones and Citi MasterCards or Visa cards at least. The near-field communication and contact-less payment system was expected to launch this summer.
Google Wallet — along with Google Offers — is built on an open platform that combines multiple credit cards, loyalty programs and offers at the point of sale. Payment is made by swiping your smartphone at checkout. Essentially, Google is turning your phone into your wallet.
The Google Wallet service must be associated with a Google account to begin using it. After agreeing to terms and conditions and entering a PIN, you can start the process of provisioning your cards to your account.
So far the service only works with Nexus S 4G phones on Sprint; people with these phones will receive over-the-air updates Monday and will see a new “Wallet” app. It also only works with Citi MasterCards and Google Prepaid Cards, which can be filled using any other credit card.
Update: Visa has announced that Visa customers can also use Google Wallet.
Eventually Discover and American Express will work with the app as well, Google said Monday.
The system made its debut in May and was tested in select markets. Just last week MasterCard, a launch partner, held another press event in New York City to show off other future-of-payment technologies, including the ability to make purchases by simply waving at your TV.
Shortly after Google revealed Google Wallet earlier this year, PayPal filed a lawsuit against Google and two former PayPal executives for sharing trade secrets. In the suit, PayPal claimed that former PayPal executive, now working at Google, Osama Bedier stole PayPal’s trade secrets and shared them with Google and other companies, and that another present Google employee and former PayPal exec, Stephanie Tilenius, violated her contract when she recruited Bedier.
Since the suit, PayPal told Mashable that it is preparing to release an update to the PayPal Mobile app that would let users make peer-to-peer payments using NFC.
Mobile carriers have also begun working on their own competitor to Google Wallet. Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are reportedly investing millions in Isis, their own mobile payment project. So far Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express have signed on to the service. It is expected to roll out sometime in 2012.
Google released the video below in May to promote Google Wallet.
Google released the video below, featuring Seinfeld‘s George Costanza, in August
The Nielsen Australian Online Consumer Report reveals that the penetration of smartphones has reached 35% of online Australians, while tablet ownership is currently at 8% but is expected to triple before the end of the year. Nielsen claims that some of the strongest purchase intent for tablet devices is coming from households with children.
Consumption of rich media content also continues to grow, with video experiencing strong growth.
“Following in the footprint of the smartphones evolution, tablets are another device to watch as a potential game changer,” Lillian Zrim, Senior Online Research Manager for Nielsen, said in a statement. “The screen size is already attracting a slightly different pattern of behaviour to that of a smartphone, with a far greater proportion of tablet owners watching online video on their device.
“Online Australians continue to increase their consumption of rich media content online, with 71% accessing audio or video content online in 2010 and 30% doing so on a weekly basis. The proportion of those consuming video content online increased from 41% in 2009 to 60% in 2010.”