IBM and Huawei hook up to start Chinese takeaway

MWC 2012 IBM’s enterprise consultancy, IBM Global Business Service, has joined up with Huawei to create enterprise solutions, initially for Chinese companies but with global aspirations.

Huawei wants its smartphones embedded into businesses, and to give those businesses a reason to buy its tablets too. IBM wants to push its Chinese presence and tap into the expediently expanding market, which it hopes to do with Huawei’s help, but to Huawei this is just another step on the road to global domination.

The jointly developed platform is called “Smart Workspace@Mobile” though at the moment it is little more than slideware and aspirational statements. It will involve Huawei’s device management systems, and apply IBM’s experience with enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and supply chain management, to create a combined solution to be pushed heavily into the energy and retail industries.

Both companies reckon enterprises are posed to make greater use of mobile workers and want to be ready to exploit that market in China and beyond. Huawei pins its plans to a projection which sees a 80 per cent of businesses making their staff work on the move by the end of next year.

But this alliance with IBM is also important in painting Huawei as a full-service company, not just a manufacturer of networking kit and Android handsets. There are dozens of high-volume-low-price manufacturers in China and Huawei is desperate not to be lumped in with them. Launching a quad-core Android handset is one part of that – the Ascend D being anything but low-cost – but sitting on stage alongside IBM is equally important. ®

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Mobile payments at retail to explode.

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt is bullish on the growth of mobile payments in the coming year.

Speaking at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity today, Schmidt said he believes one-third of all restaurants and retail outlets will allow for mobile payments within the next year, the Financial Times reports him as saying. He reportedly told those in attendance that that number should be enough for widespread adoption of mobile payments.

“I judge that based on how long I think it takes, because the terminals are available now, the software is available now or this summer,” the Financial Times reported Schmidt as saying. “How long does it take an infrastructure player to upgrade a significant percentage of their infrastructure–it’s on the order of a year, it’s not a week, it’s not a month but it’s also not five years. It’s an educated guess.”

Schmidt, who stepped down as Google CEO in April, has a vested interest in seeing more establishments allow for mobile payments. Late last month, his company unveiled Google Wallet, a service that uses near-field communication (NFC) to let users pay for purchases with their Android-based devices. Google said it will be partnering initially with Sprint, MasterCard, Citi, and FirstData on the service.

Google Wallet will be available on the Nexus S and will work with “a PayPass-eligible Citi MasterCard and a virtual Google Prepaid card.” The search giant was quick to point out that there are currently more than 124,000 PayPass-enabled merchants in the U.S. and more than 311,000 operating around the world.

Google said last month that all future Android smartphones will be NFC-compatible. Rumors suggest the next iPhone will also feature NFC technology.

But as Schmidt pointed out today, support for NFC in devices is just one piece of the mobile-payment puzzle; payment processors must also double down on the technology. However, Schmidt isn’t worried about that happening for one major reason: “fraud rates are so much lower” with the use of NFC, he said.

“Nobody knows how quickly this will occur,” Schmidt said of credit card companies updating payment terminals with mobile-payment support, “but it’s in their interests to convert as fast as they humanly can.”

 

Barnes & Noble buys Fictionwise an e-book retailer

New York – Bowing to the growth in demand for e-books, Barnes & Noble, the world’s largest chain of bookstores, has acquired Fictionwise, an online retailer of electronic books.

Barnes & Noble, which has not recently sold e-books on its Web site, bn.com, paid $15.7 million in cash for Fictionwise.

“The market hasn’t been that developed to date,” said William Lynch, president of bn.com. “We think it’s a big growth area going forward.”

Most publishers say that e-books are only about 1 percent of total book sales. But e-book sales more than tripled last year at a time when overall book sales were flat or falling. According to a survey by Codex Group, a book marketing research company, 3 percent of book sales from mid-December to mid-January were in digital form.

Steve and Scott Pendergrast, who founded Fictionwise nine years ago, will continue to operate its two retail sites, fictionwise.com and eReader.com, as independent brands.
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