Wall Street Firms Gather to Discuss Blockchain, Digital Dollars

In a private meeting with no media in attendance, more than 100 executives from some of the world’s largest financial institutions met at NASDAQ’s New York City office. They gathered to delve deeper into the promise of blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin, which became active in 2009. These financial institutions have been wary of Bitcoin, because users are anonymous and can engage in money-laundering and other banking violations. What they looked at was digital U.S. dollars, a “fiat currency” that avoids those risks. Continue reading Wall Street Firms Gather to Discuss Blockchain, Digital Dollars

Google Developing New Service for Paying Bills Within Gmail

Google is working on a project called “Pony Express,” which plans to enable Gmail users to receive and pay bills within their email. The service — whether it is named Pony Express or something else — is reportedly slated to launch in the fourth quarter. Google is working with vendors that provide billing services for insurance and telecom companies, utilities, etc. It is not clear whether the company plans to monetize the service, but it could provide Google with data for entering new industries and targeting advertisements. Continue reading Google Developing New Service for Paying Bills Within Gmail

PayPal Can Now Be Used for Purchases in Google Play Store

Late last week, Google added new payment options to the Google Play Store, including the ability to use PayPal for the purchase of apps, music and movies. Paypal can now be used as a payment method for Google’s virtual storefront in 12 countries including the U.S. While this is the first time Google has offered the PayPal option (Microsoft’s Windows Phone Store has featured the option since its inception), the payment method can only be used for digital content, which excludes devices or accessories. Continue reading PayPal Can Now Be Used for Purchases in Google Play Store

AT&T Could Reach $50 Billion Deal for DirecTV in Two Weeks

AT&T is close to striking a $50 billion deal to acquire satellite TV provider DirecTV, according to people familiar with the matter. An agreement between the two companies involving a mix of cash and AT&T stock could be reached within two weeks. Insiders say the two sides are discussing a share price for DirecTV in the low to mid-nineties (at $95 a share, such a deal would value DirecTV at almost $48 billion). The deal comes as AT&T considers video distribution a potentially key initiative for its future. Continue reading AT&T Could Reach $50 Billion Deal for DirecTV in Two Weeks

Pandora Points to Royalty Costs for Jump in Subscription Rate

Pandora announced that it plans to increase the monthly subscription rate to its premium, ad-free Pandora One service by 25 percent for new subscribers starting in May (an increase from $3.99-a-month to $4.99-a-month). “The costs of delivering this service have grown considerably,” explains the Pandora Blog. “For example, the royalty rates Pandora pays to performers via SoundExchange for subscription listening have increased 53 percent in the last five years and will increase another 9 percent in 2015.” Continue reading Pandora Points to Royalty Costs for Jump in Subscription Rate

Retail Giant Walmart to Offer Store Credit for Used Video Games

Starting next week, the country’s largest retailer Walmart will allow customers to trade in used video games for store credit to spend on other products in more than 3,100 Walmart stores nationwide. The plan is an expansion of Walmart’s program that provides customers with credit for used tablets and smartphones that can be used toward new devices. The plan also represents a potential threat to game retailer GameStop, the biggest seller of used games in the U.S. Continue reading Retail Giant Walmart to Offer Store Credit for Used Video Games

WhatsApp Announces New Voice Service After Facebook Deal

During a keynote at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum announced that the mobile messaging service would start to offer voice calls. The move could help justify the massive $19 billion price tag of the recent Facebook deal. While the marketplace for Internet phone services is already crowded, WhatsApp could become competitive since it is now backed by social giant Facebook. The voice service is planned to launch in April. Continue reading WhatsApp Announces New Voice Service After Facebook Deal

Amazon to Introduce Kindle Checkout System for Retail Stores

Amazon plans to offer brick-and-mortar retailers a new checkout system using its Kindle tablets, expected to be available as early as this summer. The development stems from Amazon’s acquisition last year of certain tech and engineers from GoPago, a startup known for its cloud-based mobile payment platform. The move could provide Amazon with a significant growth opportunity. However, it also faces numerous competitors in the checkout system space.  Continue reading Amazon to Introduce Kindle Checkout System for Retail Stores

Verizon Will Likely Respond to T-Mobile’s Aggressive Prices

Following a 3 percent drop in market value, Verizon has hinted at plans to get competitive in pricing, which customers will likely appreciate, but investors might not. The telco lost about $4 billion of its value, and some say it’s directly related to the competition among telcos to be the most aggressively priced. T-Mobile has been most notably aggressive in its pricing strategies, attracting new customers and possibly forcing Verizon to lower its fees as well. Continue reading Verizon Will Likely Respond to T-Mobile’s Aggressive Prices

Will Online Services and Apps Replace Local Bank Branches?

More banking is done digitally today and new financial services are emerging from a variety of companies. Banks themselves are using third-party services for their customers. Banks may have a diminishing role in consumers’ financial lives, giving rise to companies that provide banking and other management services. Critics say banks are slow to innovate, while others suggest they are taking a careful, combined approach with physical and digital services. Continue reading Will Online Services and Apps Replace Local Bank Branches?

Disney to Release Infinity Video Game and Related Free Apps

Disney will be releasing its “Disney Infinity” video game that will include two other apps in the pan-Disney character multi-platform game, similar to Activision’s “Skylanders.” The game uses NFC to provide toy interaction with the game. The free game apps are an ideal incentive for players to move to the paid version, where users can purchase additional toy accessories and add-ons that can be used for enhanced game play. Continue reading Disney to Release Infinity Video Game and Related Free Apps

FTC Issues Warnings to Firms that Share Consumer Info

The Federal Trade Commission sent warning letters earlier this week to 10 data brokerage firms. The agency warned the firms that the gathering and selling of consumer information could be in violation of federal privacy laws. The new letters follow last month’s action by the FTC when it issued similar warnings to six companies who offered to share tenants’ rental histories with landlords. Continue reading FTC Issues Warnings to Firms that Share Consumer Info

Mobile World Congress: GSMA Says Time for NFC is Now

At the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, there was a clear message sent by the GSMA, the congress’s organizing body: Near Field Communication (NFC) might finally be ready to have its day. That message may be hard to believe, considering NFC has been on the cusp of breaking through for nearly a decade and still has yet to achieve mainstream adoption. However, the technology was everywhere at this year’s MWC. Continue reading Mobile World Congress: GSMA Says Time for NFC is Now