Category Archives: Payments

Free Tablets!

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One of my favorite podcasts is Critical Path with Horace Dediu. Horace’s also the guy behind Asymco.com, a great blog about asymmetric competition, Apple, mobile in general, and more. He uses data to drive his analysis into otherwise lightly explored areas. Always a great read and an insightful podcast! He’s got an Asymconf conference coming up in late January at IBM’s Almaden Research Center – I’d be there if I could but I’ll be heading to Havana, Cuba for a photography workshop the week of his conference.

On a recent show, Horace talked about the evolution of tablets and how different companies were pursuing their objectives in the tablet market. At the high end, with classically high profit margins, is Apple with its iPad family. At the other end is Amazon.com and Google who both appear to be willing to settle for much lower margins on their base hardware products.

This discussion made me wonder what the endgame in tablets might be. We’ve got these two examples – Apple at the high end with a tablet (and associated ecosystem) generating lovely margins. At the other end, we’ve got others who are opting to price their tablets close to cost – viewing them as razors and expecting to make their real revenues from how those tablets are used to purchase content.

And then this article showed up a few days back – about how the Financial Times was crossing the threshold – giving away a free Nexus 7 tablet to new US digital or print subscribers. This feels like a slippery slope…

Pushing this discussion to an extreme, might we some day see free tablets from others – provided to us by those who would love to enable us for commerce within their particular ecosystem – and who might benefit from the additional signals such a tablet might provide from our browsing/searching/shopping history? Those signals – spanning across our interests as we read, search, shop, etc. – are valuable, aren’t they?

I’ve been thinking we’re moving into a post-card world with the capabilities our smartphones bring. Might a free tablet strategy fit in sometime soon? Where will mine come from? From Amazon? From Apple? From Google? A card issuer? A card network like Visa or MasterCard or American Express – or PayPal – or someone else? Maybe from my mobile carrier?

What do you think?

What a Week!

Two weeks ago I transitioned this personal blog of mine from TypePad to WordPress – and, in the process, began to get back into the swing of things in terms of regular posts. There’s something important about doing a daily post, IMHO – it’s the perfect cadence for a personal blog.

This week, naturally, I fell off that wagon. Completely fell off the wagon! No posts since last Saturday! WTF, as they say? I ask myself!

As it turned out, this week was one of those “perfect storms” of work – beginning with an all-hands partners meeting offsite on Monday, a private advanced-level Payments Boot Camp on Tuesday, a regular public Payments Boot Camp on Wednesday-Thursday, capped by an intensive client work day today. Exhausted… Heck, I’m writing this to just decompress – and yo look back at what an intense week it was!

While it was an intense week, it’s like an intense workout. You’re exhausted – but it’s that good tired feeling.

Frankly, for me, our Boot Camp sessions are just a delight. As instructors, we pour ourselves into them – and we get a huge amount back from everyone who attends. They’re pretty amazing experiences – as almost everyone who comes is an expert in some aspect of the payments systems we’re teaching – so it’s a joy to be able to draw on that expertise as the teacher.

We’ve recently begun including a case study exercise – dividing into small groups to better understand the perspectives of particular stakeholders in the payments system. These discussions get the juices flowing – as there are a lot of “zero sum” issues to consider in payments.

We also like to try to close the first day of our public boot camp sessions with an entrepreneur who’s actually innovating in and around the payments space. This week, Danny Shader, CEO of PayNearMe.com, spoke to our group – and shared some of his learnings building successful companies. Danny was great – and he got LOTS of questions!

So, I’m tired tonight – but it’s a really good tired. Lots of “good stuff” went on this week – and that’s what matters. The journey is indeed the reward!

Nathan Eagle’s Txteagle

Attended a great presentation this afternoon at Stanford with Nathan Eagle talking about Txteagle – putting 2.1 billion people in developing countries to work using their mobile phones.

Once qualified and working, they’re paid in mobile airtime – an effective virtual currency that avoids all of the regulatory issues with actually sending money instead.

What tasks do you have that a villager in Africa could help you with?

Our New Book: Payments Systems in the U.S.

I’m delighted to announce the availability of my new book Payments Systems in the U.S. – co-authored with my Glenbrook partner Carol Coye Benson.

Payments Systems in the US - Benson and Loftesness

My “day job” is being a payments strategy consultant for Glenbrook Partners, a payments consulting firm that Carol, our partner Allen Weinberg and I established almost ten years ago. We’ve since grown to nine partners who cover the full range of electronic payments.

Five years ago, Carol and I collaborated to launch the first of the Glenbrook Payments Boot Camps – an educational program for payments professionals. Our Payments Boot Camp program has become very successful – with over 4,000 people having attended one of our Payments Boot Camps to date.

About a year ago, Carol took the lead on developing the idea for a book that would distill the essence of payments systems in the U.S. We collaborated on writing it – and are now very proud that it’s been published!

If you’re looking to learn more about how the payments systems in the U.S. are put together, this book is for you. It’s written in an easy to read style – giving you just the right level of information to be “smart” about payments!

Click here to order from Amazon.com!

Should You Move Your Home Page to Facebook?

This afternoon Palo Alto’s Bling Nation began redirecting its home page on the web to its Facebook page instead.

I asked Co-CEO Meyer Malka “what’s up with that?” He replied:

“Our Facebook page has real users experiences and content and not some corporate vision or messages. Facebook allow us to show the real Bling, all good and bad things are there for anybody to read. We are fortunate to have customers. Who better than them to say what Bling is all about?”

Is there anyone else you know using their Facebook page as their home page?

Credit Cards

What a week for credit card issuers! The word “retribution” comes to mind.

Today’s meeting with Obama at the White House, Dodd and Schumer today asking Bernanke et all to use the Fed’s powers to block issuer interest rate increases, yesterday’s passage of the Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights out of the House Financial Services Committee, etc. Just a few of this week’s highlights…

Way back in early February, I wrote a blog post about “The Pressures on US Consumers from their Credit Card Debt” – primarily noting how the credit card issuers were actually digging their own grave with their upward interest rate adjustments. A natural (if silo’ed) response by issuers to the need to protect/improve the P&L of the credit card businesses inside major financial institutions.

In spite of this week’s angst, we’re still a ways away from any legislative response actually passing (in the Senate, in particular). The financial services lobby is certainly fully engaged on the issues. It will be fascinating to see who prevails.

What’s the lesson the credit card industry should learn from all this? Anything?

The Pressures on US Consumers from their Credit Card Debt

Most economic pundits seem to agree that the US consumer has reigned in spending in the face of the economic uncertainty we’re all experiencing. In addition to consumers slowing their spending, their actual ability to spend is being impacted in other ways – for example, by having to pay more in interest payments to their credit card issuers.

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Globally Adaptive Organizations

Forrester’s Navi Radjou has written a report titled “Cisco 3.0 – A New Tech Star Rises in the East” that describes how Cisco is “systematically globalizing its US-centric corporate culture.”

Radjou writes that “Forrester expects Cisco to be the first tech multinational corporation (MNC) to have evolved into a globally adaptive organization (GAO) — a socially responsible and culturally sensitive enterprise with globally integrated assets, talent, processes, and partnerships.”

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