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Microsoft's Skype division inks payment app deal with MACH

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September 6, 2012

Microsoft's Skype division says it has inked a deal with MACH in an effort to link customers' Skype accounts and their mobile bills.

The deal will allow Skype users to bypass credit card companies and even PayPal when they wish to make payments using their phone.

This transaction will enable mobile customers to buy Skype minutes using Skype apps, and then have the cost added to their wireless-phone bill or deducted from their pre-paid account rather than having to pay with a credit card or PayPal account.

This is accomplished with the services of mobile billing provider MACH, whose secure servers integrate with network operators around the globe to create billable events.

For now, exactly which mobile operators and where they're based Skype isn't saying, but deployment will start next month.

For post-paid mobile that's relatively easy-– the line item is just added to the bill, but with a pre-paid account the money has to be deducted in real time, which is a little more complex in practice.

The overall majority of Skype users don't pay of course. Video and audio calls to other Skype users are free and Skype's peer-to-peer nature makes them low in cost.

Skype's revenues come from those who pay for the ability to call normal phones, and some embedded advertising, but making it easier to pay is always desirable for mobile users, and this is what MACH appears to do best.

Currently, Skype accepts the usual range of credit cards and PayPal accounts, as well as bank transfers which can take several days to process but cost less for Skype to process.

Withdrawing cash from a mobile account will probably cost less than doing so from a credit card. MACH will still want a share of the revenue, but more importantly, it will make it easier and faster to pay for Skype even if a user doesn't have a credit card or bank account.

If Skype is going to be better integrated into Windows Phone handsets, and if it challenges the role of mobile operators and wireless carriers as providers of voice telephony, then billing integration was a necessary step, and one which is now possible *IF* we assume that the operators will allow it. And now *that's* the next big question, of course!

In other mobile news

Intel said earlier today that it has published its annual Mobile Etiquette report, an initiative that makes two things really clear: first, that global online information sharing is universal, and second, that Intel and its survey partner Ipsos-Reid know very well how to compress large chunks of data into a concise report.

"But what's most interesting isn't necessarily how widespread our use of mobile technology has become," said Intel director of user interaction Genevieve Bell, "but how similar our reasons are for sharing, regardless of region or culture."

For example, in the United States, online info-sharers are simply annoyed by just about everything Bell may find that the survey, conducted in eight countries this spring and summer, shows commonality among online info-sharers, but there's also a large degree of diversity of interests and opinions that can be gleaned from the vast data Ipsos-Reid come out with in its survey.

Here are some specifics:

  • About 54 percent as many Chinese as French share information online when they're in the bathroom-– an activity that's rarely practiced by Indonesians.
  • About 49 percent of Chinese adults believe that they share too many mundane details of their own lives, while only about 9.6 percent of their Australian, French and American counterparts feel the same about their online behavior.
  • About 60 percent more French women than Japanese teenage girls think that people divulge too much information online.
  • Very few Japanese men share information online during funerals, a practice not uncommon among Indonesian women.
  • Far more Australian men than women share false data on the web, both male and female Indonesians rarely do, but no one lies more than Japanese men.
  • About 31.4 percent of Chinese adults share info a few times per week, the same proportion as French adults who share less than once a month, and as Brazilian teenage girls who share a few times each day.
  • No one shares photos online more than Australian teenager girls, or less than Japanese teenage boys.
  • A tiny percentage of Japanese teenage girls share political opinions online, although about 22 percent of Indonesian teenage girls do.
  • More Indian teenage girls share explicit photos of themselves (almost 19.5 percent) than do their compatriots in any other country.
  • However, one area of particular interest that the survey explored was online annoyances. Opinions of constant complaining, bragging, mundane details, profanity, and other pet peeves matched up against Indonesian women, Frenchmen and others.

    "The overall ability to use mobile devices to easily share information about our lives is creating a sense of connection across borders that we're continuing to see flourish-- even a bit more than the internet was 10 to 12 years ago," notes Bell.

    In other mobile news

    At around 1.30 PM yesterday, Apple sent out some invitations to a September 12 press event, where the Cupertino company is expected to unveil its new and very much anticipated iPhone.

    The invitation features the number '12' with a subtle foreshadow effect that looks like the number '5', suggesting the event will indeed be all about a device that the media has been referring to as the iPhone 5. The new device, which has seen a variety of leaks online in the form of pictures and various specs, is expected to feature a larger touchscreen and, it's widely expected, LTE connectivity, among other features and goodies.

    Apple saw a small slowdown in iPhone sales in its latest fiscal quarter, which was largely attributed to customers awaiting the anticipated launch of the iPhone 5.

    Nevertheless, Apple devices still remain very much in favor with most consumers, and their popularity is rapidly growing. According to new figures released by comScore today, Apple’s market share of the 114 million smartphones purchased in the United States during the three months ending in July increased 2.1 percentage points sequentially to 33.4 percent overall.

    Google's Android operating system ranked as the top smartphone platform with about a 52.1 percent market share, an increase of about 1.3 percentage points.

    And while Samsung's Galaxy devices have done well on average, iPhone announcements tend to eclipse the rest of the market entirely, which is why other OEMs will try to beat Apple to the plate.

    Apple's announcement next Wednesday will be preceded by a few announcements today from Nokia and Microsoft, as well as one from Motorola Mobility later around 5.30 PM EST.

    In other mobile news

    Apple has been stockpiling LTE patents in a bid to fend off a possible legal battle from its fierce competitor Samsung on its forthcoming iPhone 5. Apple has recently filed no less than 318 new LTE patents. That's around five percent of the world’s total.

    According to various sources, Apple developed 44 of those patents itself while the rest were acquired from now bankrupt Nortel Networks in Canada. The Bidco consortium, which Apple joined with EMC, Microsoft and others to bid for further Nortel patents, owns a further 116 LTE patents, effectively bumping Apple’s number up in excess of 400.

    By comparison, Samsung has the largest share of LTE patents with 819 (12.7 percent of the total), while U.S. patent firm Inter Digital is second with 780.

    This clearly demonstrates that Apple has been taking strategic steps to acquire intellectual property to prepare for potential legal battles before it launches its own LTE smartphones.

    This echoes a few claims in the newspaper Korean Times on Friday that Samsung – still smarting after its defeat to Apple in a Californian court last month – was readying a move to strike back at Apple.

    The paper claims that Samsung confirmed it would “immediately sue” Apple if the Californian phone-maker releases an LTE device.

    With the iPhone 5 possibly set to sport such functionality when it is announced next week, we should find out sooner rather than later.

    But patent expert Florian Mueller warned that Samsung would do well to rethink its strategy, saying “4G/LTE won't be Samsung's key to a free pass for patent infringement”.

    “I would strongly discourage Samsung from trying to use 4G/LTE-essential patents to shut down the iPhone 5,” he added in a blog post.

    “It won't improve Samsung's position at all. In fact, it will only make matters worse, especially with antitrust regulators. In my opinion, the reasonable approach for Samsung would be to sue for FRAND royalties over its Standard Essential Patents, not injunctions.”

    In other mobile news

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    During the second week of March of this year, a Dell Vostro notebook, used by U.S. FBI Supervisor Special Agent Christopher Stangl from the Regional Cyber Action Team and New York FBI Office Evidence Response Team was breached using the Atomic Reference Array vulnerability virus on Java.

    During the shell session, some files were downloaded from his Desktop folder, and one of them with the name of "NCFTA_iOS_devices_intel.csv" turned out to be a list of 12,367,232 Apple iOS devices including Unique Device Identifiers (UDID), user names, name of the device, type of device, Apple Push Notification Service tokens, zipcodes, cellphone numbers, addresses, etc.

    The personal details fields referred to people appeared many times empty leaving the whole list incomplete in many ways.

    But no other files on the same folder make any mention about the list or its imminent purpose. The data was released today with some identifying information removed, to alert the public that, in its words, "The FBI IS USING YOUR DEVICE INFO FOR A TRACKING PEOPLE PROJECT".

    Note that the hackers don't say they have obtained Apple IDs, passwords or credit card numbers.

    Still, if the claims are to be believed, users whose addresses, cell phone numbers and iOS device IDs made their way from Apple's servers to an FBI agent's notebook computer deserve an explanation.

    No comment so far from either Apple or the FBI. The hackers, for their part, say that no further statements or press interviews will be forthcoming until Gawker's beat reporter is pictured on the front page of the site dressed in a tutu with a shoe on his head.

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    Source: Microsoft's Skype division.

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