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Why my eCommerce company is dumping Points.com, and why you should not do business with Points.com August 8, 2013

Posted by HubTechInsider in Ecommerce.
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1. Points.com generated oceans of irate customer service requests from our customers, many of whom reported to us that they either never received their points / miles, they were the victim of unexplained points reversals at the hands of Points.com, and / or their frequent flyer accounts were closed without explanation by Points.com. As the application’s administration interface is so rudimentary, basically only providing an interface which afforded us the opportunity to buy points from Points.com, our ability as a small Shopify merchant to keep up with returns, issues with the Points.com application itself or the points of integration between Points.com and our product database began to curtail our normal business customer service activities. Some examples of the types and number of these customer complaints are within the links below. Points.com provided no customer service liaison, no knowledge base, we were never assigned an account manager, and the ignored all of our emails requesting a merchant service manager contact at the company. We were told repeatedly that Points.com does not administer the loyalty programs they claim to power / represent on their logos and graphic files, which we found was extremely misleading to our customers, who were confused and came to us looking for assistance, which we, in many cases and quite frustratingly, were unable to provide.

2. One of the issues regarded with the most amount of trepidation by merchants, large and small, online and off, is the issue of what is known as “Passive spend”. This is where a consumer enters a merchant’s place of business, either online or offline, and completes a transaction. The passive spend occurs as the customer receives a loyalty reward, either in the form of points or miles — for a purchase they would have performed anyway. in other words, by participating in the Points.com program, as a merchant you are effectively discounting every single item in your store, sending a certain percentage of every sale to Points.com in the form of purchased points, many of which, or even most of which, the customers will never redeem. Many customers are not participants of the loyalty rewards programs in question and so they received a coupon code via email that they didn’t know what to do with. Points.com is like many of the points / miles awarding companies out there on the internet: they simply buy points from the airlines. United, Delta, American Airlines: they all sell points to anyone who cares to buy them. So Points.com, rather than speaking for the airlines, is simply a middleman, leveraging points arbitrage and counting on passive spend to boost their bottom line. The only problem? You need the merchants to drive the discount or award in the first place. The points awards come out of the merchants’ pockets. Points.com never even gave us one courtesy telephone call at any point during our business relationship with them. No matter what Points.com implies in their corporate advertising, make no mistake: this points industry is driven by merchants, and what the merchants giveth, the merchants can take away. And tshirtnow.net decided to pick up our playing chips and go home.

3. The Points.com integration with our eCommerce site, tshirtnow.net, (in continuous operation since 1994) was supposed to provide our customers, upon completion of their orders within our site, a redemption code that they could use with any of the participating loyalty programs. We performed a study using our CRM system which resulted in a report that showed a customer service inquiry regarding this coupon code every 1.3 completed transactions, which is an unacceptable rate of CS inquiries regarding an application whose singular purpose is to send our customers their redemption code. Keep in mind, the actual redemption of the points in question occurs after the customer has not only received the code via email from Points.com, but have entered it into their loyalty program’s customer portal. In other words, the sending of the code is but the tip of the iceberg of the customer’s interaction with their loyalty program, and in consideration of the above point #1, namely poor to nonexistent merchant support from Points.com, you can see that each completed transaction had the potential to create dozens of follow-on CS emails and telephone calls from irate customers, with a limited facility for our personnel to assist.

4. We were informed via email that upon an alleged annual program review of Points.com merchants, tshirtnow.net would no longer be able to participate in the Points.com program. No reasons for this were given, and it was unclear to us if this was one program / airline, or the entire Points.com program, or if this originated with Points.com iteslf. Based upon my experiences in the points / miles industry (http://www.linkedin.com/in/paulseibert1) , I was skeptical of this originating in some sort of annual review, not only because the calendar timing was odd for this, but also due to the fact that in my experiences, airlines and other loyalty programs opt merchants out on a case-by-case basis. This notice from Points.com had all the appearance of a retaliatory move by Points.com due to our requests for customer service and an account manager or merchant liason. We were however told that Points.com was working on a new product that would be oriented towards merchants like us. During this entire episode, we were still receiving system maintenance emails which had all the indications that we were still integrated, at least programmatically, with the Points.com program. Indeed, we are *still* receiving these emails. I may post some of the Points.com system maintenance bulletins here on HubTechInsider.com, however I think sight of even one or two of the myriad Points.com system failure notices would scare even the hardiest of entrepreneurs away from using their system. My repeated emails and telephone calls requesting clarification were ignored.

5. Points.com is an integration with our eCommerce site. We needed time to figure out where the integration code existed within our code base, and remove the code. There was markup on our front end UI pags that also had to be removed which dropped points.com tracking cookies, etc. This all took time, and the Points.com documentation was nonexistent. The developer that had integrated Points.com into the Tshirtnow.net web site, Mr. Steven Brown, passed away in Florida while on vacation and this event not only complicated the identification and removal of the code in question but brought all new development on our site to a halt as our entire development team attended the funeral services in Florida and the burial in Jamaica. Needless to say, our patience with Points.com’s nefarious business practices had worn thin even by the time we returned back to Boston only to be greeted by the highly threatening letter from Points.com’s corporate council, threatening every thing under the sun from copyright infringement lawsuits to multiple lawsuits from their individual participating airlines. I have worked with nearly every single one of their participating airlines on loyalty program integrations, and I know the chance of that happening is about the same as a snowball’s chance on the quad of the University of Alabama in July. We will sit here holding our collective breaths. I advise all eCommerce merchants to steer clear of this Points.com company.



Points.com:

I am in receipt of your threatening emails and correspondence from your general counsel. I will remove the two graphic images from our web site. As you are aware, Tshirtnow.net is a former customer of Points.com.

As a very small understaffed company, we have some difficulty at times in removing links, graphics, etc. – as undoubtedly do many of your Shopify merchants. Points.com is a large multinational corporation that is located outside the state boundaries of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and apparently has little experience or expertise in dealing with cottage industries such as Tshirtnow.net.

I intend to publicize this bullying behavior of Points.com, and publicize it widely. Certainly we have the ability to review your behavior and the performance of the Points.com application multiple times in an extremely negative fashion via means of the Shopify (and other eCommerce platforms) marketplace, and I intend to reach out to my corporate contacts at Shopify and their developer and merchant advocates and marketplace Ombudsman directly in order to lodge a formal complaint against you and your company’s (“Points.com”) pejorative communications and business practices with regard to small Shopify merchants. It is the fervent belief of this longtime Shopify merchant that your large multinational corporation, Points.com, have misrepresented yourselves as a viable vendor to such eCommerce operations.

Please forward to me the contact information of your corporate counsel so that they can receive the formal demand letter from our corporate counsel, whom have advised us that under the general laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, our company has rights that will be vigorously defended in the litigation system of the Commonwealth. The judges and juries within the court system of Commonwealth of Massachusetts have a long history of defending small local businesses against the unfair business practices of large out-of-state multinational corporations such as Points.com.

As entitled under the general laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, consider this correspondence as our official demand for written enumeration of the reasons behinds the termination of our Points.com account, which was effected without any prior notice.

Be aware that all information and communications between myself, our company and Points.com, shall be made public, as will all of your threats, written, electronic, verbal or otherwise. I have been in contact with several members of the online press and eCommerce review sites, and I have been asked to sit for a local television station so that they can interview me in order to review your Points.com application and present our side of the story. This television program and the resulting video file will be distributed worldwide and search engine optimized in such a way as to become heavily viewed on YouTube and easily discoverable when eCommerce vendors search for information about Points.com.

I am also contacting the office of the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in order to file a formal complaint against Points.com regarding your multinational corporation’s business practices within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

– Paul

Take a look for yourself at the same types of complaints about Points.com that our miniscule, understaffed, underpaid (you guys are awesome!) and overworked customer service staff has been fielding about our (former) integration with the Points.com application for months on end:

http://travelsitecritic.com/reviews/1-2/points-com/
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/milesbuzz/496174-points-com-buyer-beware.html
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/american-aadvantage/312953-get-unlimited-aa-miles-less-than-0-01-per-mile.html
http://www.onlinetravelreview.com/2012/12/03/a-cautionary-tale-about-points-com/
http://www.planetfeedback.com/mypointscom/other/my+pointscom+turns+into+a+stolen+identity+scam/163151
http://comparerewards.com/archives/564
http://www.hardcorpstravel.com/2011/07/using-pointscom-ultimate-in-depth.html
http://elliott.org/the-troubleshooter/what-to-do-when-points-vanish-into-thin-air/
http://creditcardforum.com/blog/points-com-review-is-it-a-scam-or-good-deal/

How to optimize your web based software application for the mobile web August 7, 2011

Posted by HubTechInsider in Mobile Software Applications, Product Management, Project Management.
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Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

The mobile web is where the action is in 2011.  We have all seen the polls and the statistics: people are spending more and more time accessing the web through their mobile smartphones and mobile tablet computers. The mobile Web grew 110 percent in the U.S. last year and 148 percent worldwide as measured by growth in pageviews.

Including devices such as the Kindle, the iPhone and other smartphones, web-enabled tablets, GPS systems, video games and wireless home appliances, the growth of the mobile web has been exponential — and we’re still just at the beginning of this cycle. Morgan Stanley’s analysts believe that, based on the current rate of change and adoption, the mobile web will be bigger than desktop Internet use by 2015. The proliferation of better devices and the availability of better data coverage are two trends driving growth; having better services and smaller, cheaper devices has led to a huge explosion in mobile technology that far outpaces the growth of any other computing cycle.

Global 3G penetration is expected to hit 21% this year. In Japan, where the U.S. looks to find its mobile roadmap for the future, 96% of mobile subscribers already have 3G coverage. In Western Europe, the penetration is around 54%, just slightly above 46% in the U.S. In developing and/or economically depressed areas, including the Middle East, Africa, parts of Asia, Eastern Europe and South America, 3G penetration is still in the single digits. 3G access is a key point in the success of the mobile web, providing very usable surfing speeds for mobile web usage.

In addition, mobile e-commerce is ramping up faster than online e-commerce, now making up 4% of total retail sales. In certain categories, such as computers, consumer electronics, music, movies, tickets, video games and books, online sales account for between 45% and 20% of the total retail market. Japan’s Rakuten shows how the mobile share of e-commerce is growing as well, from 10% of e-commerce in 2006 to nearly 20% now.

Video now accounts for 69% of mobile data traffic, and the overlap between mobile users and social web users continues to grow; more and more users are accessing the social web from a mobile device. Real-time technology and location-based services are expected to drive mobile retail, and a very interesting fact is that the average iPhone user only spends 45% of his on-device time making voice calls.

Some more mobile web usage statistics and facts:

  • More people have mobile phones than Internet-connected PCs (4 billion) 

  • SMS penetration ~50% and fully mainstream (82% of users <24 y.o.)

  • 82 million Americans can recall seeing advertising on their phone over last 3 mos. (approx. 30% of 270m adult phone users)

  • 25% of phone users (65 mm) are accessing the mobile web but 80% of iPhone users are

  • 40% of Twitter users use the Internet on their phones (76% if you include WiFi) (Pew)

  • Internet Advertising Bureau survey found that 62 percent of agencies, media planners and advertisers believe mobile ad spending will continue to grow and emerge in marketing budgets

  • Mobile device is increasingly becoming small, portable PC experience with an Internet browser experience similar to that of 2000/2001 (just diff’t form factor)

  • In 2007, eMarketer reports that US advertisers spent $900 million on mobile, and double in 2008 to $1.7 billion

  • 21 million iPhones + ~20 million iPod Touches = 40-45million iPod-like devices

  • 50,000 apps from iTunes App Store and Nokia, RIM, MSFT and others now w app stores; 1 billion+ app downloads to date

  • 70% of people sleep with their mobile phones (Zumobi)

  • More than 60 million mobile views per month for New York Times; one of 4 apps pre-loaded on the Palm Pre

  • Joseph Porus of Harris Interactive: “”Mobility could be recession-proof and be one of the strongest ways of effectively marketing in tough economic times”

  • 35% of mobile advertising campaigns cost less than $10,000 (Forrester)

Mobile Device Product Categories & Feature Sets

There are four primary mobile device product categories in widespread use today, and each of these four mobile device product categories is typically configured by the device manufacturers with a certain base set of features and functionality. The four mobile device product categories, listed with their typical bandwidth usage per month, are:

  1. Feature Phones:  Feature Phones such as the Motorola Razr are used primarily to make calls, and they consume little bandwidth even for web activities because they have stripped-down web browsers. Feature phones and their users tend to consume around 100 Megabytes of data downloads a month, using 4 MB of voice calls an hour, and 4 to 5 MB of web browsing per hour.

  2. Smartphones: Smartphones such as Research in Motion’s popular Blackberry are used for phone calls, email, and light web browsing. Smartphones and their users tend to consume around 185 Megabytes of total monthly data downloads, utilizing 4 MB per hour for voice calls, and 4 to 5 MB of web browsing.

  3. Superphones: Superphones are advanced smartphones, including Apple’s iPhone and Motorola’s Droid, that make it easy for people to surf the web and watch online videos, leading to much higher bandwidth use. Superphones and their users tend to consume around 560 Megabytes of total monthly data downloads, using 4 MB per hour for voice calls, 40 MB per hour for web browsing, 60 MB per hour for internet radio, and 200 MB per hour for YouTube videos.

  4. Tablet Computers: Tablet computers such as Apple’s newly unveiled iPad are likely to send data use even higher. The iPad will chew up even more bandwidth than the iPhone because of its larger screen. Tablet computer and iPad users tend to consume 800 to 1,000 Megabytes of total monthly data downloads, using 50 to 60 MB per hour for web browsing, 60 MB per hour for internet radio, and 300 to 400 MB per hour for YouTube videos.

If your web based application or site is not optimized for the mobile web, you are falling behind and losing out on transaction revenue, sales, data, customers: you name it.

There are many methods and techniques that can be used to optimize your web based application or site for the mobile web. In this article I will describe how I optimized a commercial b2c ecommerce application for the mobile web, and then I will go into more details as to how you can use the same techniques I used on the http://www.tshirtnow.net mobile site and also how you can use different techniques to optimize your own web-based mobile application or site.

For the tshirtnow.net mobile site, I utilized a technique to present a mobile-optimized version of the tshirtnow.net web site to mobile browser users such as those surfing the web site on an iPhone, iPad, or Android mobile phone, and the regular version of the tshirtnow.net web site to users who were accessing the web-based b2c tshirtnow.net ecommerce application from regular web browsers on a desktop or laptop computer with a browser like Google Chrome or Microsoft Internet Explorer.

But using a special CSS stylesheet that is optimized for mobile browsers, along with the reglar tshirtnow.net CSS stylesheet, we are able to automatically detect what type of mobile browser platform the user is currently accessing the tshirtnow.net web site with. Using the CSS information contained in the tshirtnow.net mobile cascading style sheet (CSS), we are able to render the exact same html content which represents the different pages on the site such as product detail pages, order status pages, and the home page with different formating and styles, and even content sections, all just by using CSS.

The advantages of this technique are rather obvious. First of all, there is no need to recreate dozens or even hundreds of static html content pages, as the exact same content and pages can be cleverly re-purposed simply by providing for planned degradation of the user’s web experience according to what type of mobile device and mobile browser platform they are currently using.

Secondly, the use of CSS to provide a mobile optimized experience allows for the use of special CSS tags and techniques which can provide iPhone and iPad iOS orientation (landscape or portrait) and touch detection, intelligent web page scaling, special mobile OS (iPhone, iPad iOS or Android, Blackberry, HP WebOS) controls and rich media player capabilities, and phone/web integrated telephony. I will go into much more detail about some of these advanced CSS capabilities and I will provide more information about them as well as links to more resources on the web later in this article.

I encourage readers of this article who have not already done so, to read my previous article, a Glossary of mobile Web Terminology, for references to some of the terms I will use throughout this article. Knowing mobile web terminology will also assist you in creating wireframes and mockups for mobile web applications, and will be a great boon to your mobile application software specifications as well.

The tshirtnow.net mobile web site

For tshirtnow.net, I utilized a mobile optimized CSS style sheet. It detects which type of browser platofrm the user is accessing the tshirtnow.net web site with, and then serves that user either the regular tshirtnow.net home page, or the mobile optimized tshirtnow.net home page. Here is what most users see when they access the tshirtnow.net web site with a normal desktop computer browser:

And here is what a user accessing the same tshirtnow.net home page using mobile safari on an Apple iPhone would see:

The mobile version of the tshirtnow.net home page, as seen on an Apple iPhone (iOS)

As you can see, iPhone users see a gently degraded web page, which contains many of the most important, but not nearly all, of the controls, links, graphics and content of the normal tshirtnow.net home page. This mobile-specific version of the exact same web page is presented to the user not though the use of another web page, but simply through the use of the mobile-optimized style sheet.

Here is another example of how the tshirtnow.net b2c ecommerce web application is able to detect a mobile browser user and serve up content optimized for mobile from the exact same html page. Here is what the order status page looks like to a user accessing the tshirtnow.net web site from a regular desktop computer browser like Microsoft Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox:

And here is what a user accessing the same tshirtnow.net order status page using mobile safari on an Apple iPhone would see:

The mobile version of the tshirtnow.net order status page (iOS)

You can see that not only has the check order status button been dynamically resized in order to accomodate the smaller screen width of the iPhone mobile safari browser, but also that the hairline css curved corners border around the order number and email address input form fields has been resized too. All of this dynamic width modification, including the button graphic itself, which is rendered using standards-based css, happens on the fly from one set of html pages.

If you perform platform-specific css coding into your mobile stylesheet, which I will demonstrate how to do later in this article, then you can take advantage of such features as iOS iPad and iPhone orientation detection and dynamic adjustment, touch interface enhancements, and CTI, or Computer Telephony Integration features like click-to-call:

iOS platform-specific controls like this iPhone selection dial are supported natively through CSS

A typical b2b or b2c web-based ecommerce application that provides content pages that are driven by databases and displaying and presenting the results of database queries can produce thousands of individual web pages. To provide a mobile-optimized version of each of these pages is a prohibitively expensive and time-consuming endeavor that is beyond the performance envelope of most software development organizations.

The skillset needed to perform heavy CSS manipulations and platform-specific mobile optimizations may not be present on your current software development team. J2ee and other types of system and application software programmers may not have the requisite ability to manipulate and create a mobile optimized CSS stylesheet, and the necessary experience required to effectively develop and test platform-specific and progressively enhanced mobile CSS may not be present on your current team.

By utilizing a mobile CSS stylesheet to render the same content pages, you have provided a way to render those thousands of dynamic, database-driven web pages on the fly, and ready for your mobile web users. For example, here is one of the many thousands of product detail pages on the tshirtnow.net ecommerce site, as it would appear to a normal desktop web browser:

And here is what a user accessing the same srv tshirt product detail page using mobile safari on an Apple iPhone would see:

A mobile version of a tshirtnow.net tshirt product page (iOS)

You can see that the mobile version of the tshirtnow.net product detail page contains less content, and the content that is displayed on the mobile version of the product detail page is in a different location than the content on the regular, desktop browser version of the tshirtnow.net product detail page. All of this is performed not through HTML manipulations or server side includes, but is instead accomplished exclusively through the use of CSS.

Product detail page features such as tags are specially presented on Apple iPhone iOS through CSS

Because of this use of CSS to render mobile versions of the same html content pages, all scenarios have been accounted for, opening up the entire tshirtnow.net web site, all products, all static html content pages, all dynamic interaction controls such as search engines and results pages, are made available to mobile web browsers using this technique.

If instead the decision had been made to create unique, static html pages for mobile browsers, then a detection mechanism such as WURL or user-agent string detection would have had to have been employed in order to serve up unique html pages. The program to create many thousands of unique pages for all of the major functions, plus a unique mobile template for all of the product detail pages, would have been extremely cost and resource intensive.

Tips for Handheld CSS Style Sheets

Handheld media stylesheets should be as small and compact as possible because of download time.

What can you do to simplify your site and make it more usable in mobiles? First, eliminate some of these problematic items from mobile display.

  • Eliminate floats and frames

  • Eliminate columns – one column with the content first is the best option

  • Eliminate scripted effects such as popups or pop out menus in favor of plain old HTML and simple text menus

  • Eliminate decorative images that slow down the loading process. Use display:none to remove anything that isn’t absolutely necessary, such as links to external resources. Remember, however, that devices that don’t understand CSS won’t do anything withdisplay: none. Any essential images need to be reworked for the small screen and the width and height attributes need to be included in the HTML.

  • Eliminate nested tables and layout tables. If you have tabular data, consider finding a way to present it in a linearized alternate display.

Once you’ve simplified through elimination, start building the rules you need to add. Consider these ideas.

  • If you’re not already using relative measures, switch to ems or percentages rather than pixels

  • Reduce margins, paddings and borders to suit the small screen

  • Use smaller font sizes for headings and paragraph text

  • If you have a long navigation list at the start of the page, add a skip to main content link, or move the links to the end of document flow. Keep the number of clicks required to get to content as minimal as humanly possible. Without a mouse or keyboard, most mobile users have to click laboriously through any top navigation.

  • Make sure your color combinations provide good contrast between foreground and background colors, particularly for devices with fewer color options.

Sample Handheld CSS Stylesheet


/* mobile styles */

@media handheld {

html, body {

font: 12px/15px sans-serif;

background: #fff;

padding: 3px;

color: #000;

margin: 0;

}

#sidebar, #footer {

display: none;

}

h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6 {

font-weight: normal;

}

#content img {

max-width: 250px;

}

.center {

width: 100%; !important;

text-align: center;

}

a:link, a:visited {

text-decoration: underline;

color: #0000CC;

}

a:hover, a:active {

text-decoration: underline;

color: #660066;

}

}

/* iPhone-specific styles */

@media only screen and (max-device-width: 480px) {

html {

-webkit-text-size-adjust: none;

}

}

Resources for testing your mobile applications

As with any other type of Web design, testing is a big part of the process. However, testing websites for mobile devices brings additional challenges, and fortunately, there are some tools available that were created especially for these purposes:

Opera Mini Browser Simulator

http://www.opera.com/mobile/demo/

The Opera Web browser comes with a feature that is of use to QA – the Opera Small Screen Renderer.

This tool can be used to test any Web page and see how it will look in a tiny window like on a cell phone. To use it:

 Download the latest version of Opera.

    1. Go to the page you want to test.
    2. Hit Shift-F11.
      The screen will switch to a narrow version of the page.
    3. When you’re done testing, hit Shift-F11 to toggle back to normal view.

Apple iPhone Safari Debugging and Testing Tips & Instructions:

http://developer.apple.com/safari/library/documentation/AppleApplications/Reference/SafariWebContent/DebuggingSafarioniPhoneContent/DebuggingSafarioniPhoneContent.html#//apple_ref/doc/uid/TP40006515-SW1

 W3C mobileOK Checker:

http://validator.w3.org/mobile/

ready.mobi mobile site automated checker & reporting tool:

Ready.mobi

 Blackberry Device Simulators:

http://na.blackberry.com/eng/developers/resources/simulators.jsp

 Nokia Mobile Phone Simulator:

http://mtld.mobi/emulator.php?emulator=nokiaN70&webaddress=mtld.mobi

OpenWave Phone Simulator:

http://developer.openwave.com/dvl/tools_and_sdk/phone_simulator/

iPhoney iPhone Simulator for OS X:

http://www.marketcircle.com/iphoney/

 How to setup desktop Safari on Windows and OS X to emulate iPad and iPhone:

http://developer.apple.com/safari/library/technotes/tn2010/tn2262.html

 Mobile Phone Web-based Emulator:

http://emulator.mtld.mobi/emulator.php?emulator=sonyK750&webaddress=stepforth.mobi

 BrowserCam Cross-Browser Device Screen Captures:

(Instantly see mobile pages in any browser on device operating systems)

http://www.browsercam.com/Default2.aspx

W3C Mobile Test Harness:

http://www.w3.org/2007/03/mth/harness

 Cameron Moll’s Mobile HTML & CSS Styling Test Pages:

http://cameronmoll.com/articles/mobile/mkp/

Patrick Griffith’s Handheld Media Test Page (Test to see if handheld device interprets media=”handheld”):

http://htmldog.com/test/handheld.html

 Good, General Mobile Web Testing Resources Available Here:

http://carsonified.com/blog/mobile/make-your-site-mobile-friendly/

Apple iPhone / iPad / iOS Resources

Apple iPhone Developer Center:

http://developer.apple.com/iphone/index.action

 iUI Interface Library / Framework Documentation:

http://code.google.com/p/iui/

http://www.k10design.net/articles/iui/

 iPhone Web HTML Application Home Screen Icons, Viewport Adjustments:

http://www.hanselman.com/blog/MakeYourWebsiteMobileAndIPhoneFriendlyAddHomeScreenIPhoneIconsAndAdjustTheViewPort.aspx

 Touch Interface Detection:

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/2607248/optimize-website-for-touch-devices

 iPad Orientation Detection CSS:

http://catharsis.tumblr.com/post/501657271/ipad-orientation-css-revised

http://www.cloudfour.com/ipad-orientation-css/

http://www.cloudfour.com/ipad-css/

 Preparing Your Web Content for iPad:

http://developer.apple.com/safari/library/technotes/tn2010/tn2262.html

iPad CSS How To:

http://thomasmaier.me/2010/03/howto-css-for-the-ipad/

 Building an iPhone App using jQTouch & PhoneGap, without Objective-C:

http://net.tutsplus.com/tutorials/html-css-techniques/the-easiest-way-to-build-your-first-iphone-app/

http://radar.oreilly.com/2010/01/ipad-opportunities-for-web-dev.html

http://oreilly.com/catalog/9780596805784/

Blackberry Developer Zone:

http://na.blackberry.com/eng/developers/

Blackberry Browsers Stylesheet and CSS Support Information:

http://docs.blackberry.com/en/developers/deliverables/11844/Feature_CSS_512751_11.jsp

How to target the Blackberry browser:

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/913040/how-to-target-the-blackberry-browser

Blackberry Device Simulators:

http://na.blackberry.com/eng/developers/resources/simulators.jsp

 RIM Blackberry Developers Reference Guide: Blackberry Browser HTML, CSS and JS Information:

http://docs.blackberry.com/en/developers/subcategories/?userType=21&category=BlackBerry%20Browser

 RIM Blackberry Browser CSS Reference Guide:

http://docs.blackberry.com/en/developers/deliverables/5683/CSS_Reference.pdf

RIM Blackberry Browser Content Design Guidelines:

http://docs.blackberry.com/en/developers/deliverables/4305/BlackBerry_Browser-4.6.0-US.pdf

In the BlackBerry Documentation for Developers, there is a documentation for the BlackBerry Browser, including CSS Reference – BlackBerry Browser. There is no specific mention of CSS3, but that document lists supported CSS properties.

There is also a BlackBerry Widget web standards support page that states 4.7.1 and 5.0 have partial support for CSS 3 color and full support for CSS 3 marquee, CSS 3 media queries, CSS 3 namespaces and CSS 3 selectors.

Opera Mini 5 Optimization:

http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/opera-mini-5-beta-developers/#optimizing

Opera Mini Browser-based Simulator:

http://www.opera.com/mobile/demo/

How to serve the right content to mobile browsers:

http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/how-to-serve-the-right-content-to-mobile/

 W3C CCS3 Media Queries Specification:

http://www.w3.org/TR/css3-mediaqueries/

 Mobile Device Support through JavaScript & CCS Media Queries:

http://floggingenglish.com/2009/06/18/mobile-device-support-through-javascript-and-css/

 Safe Cross-Platform, Cross-Device Media Queries:

http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/safe-media-queries/

HTML & CSS For Mobiles:

http://www.htmldog.com/ptg/archives/000055.php

Mobile CSS is a reality:

http://www.htmldog.com/ptg/archives/000056.php

CSS Discuss: Handheld Style Sheets:

http://css-discuss.incutio.com/wiki/Handheld_Stylesheets

Mobile Style Guides:

http://patterns.design4mobile.com/index.php/Mobile_Style_Guides_-_Screen_Design,_Part_1

You can try acid3.acidtests.org and http://www.css3.info/selectors-test/test.html on the respective browsers to check some compatibility, but that may not be an exact determining factor of full compatibility. However I don’t think any of the mobile browsers currently fully support CSS3.

—————————-

Both iPhone and Android systems use WebKit as the rendering engine in their mobile browsers. I believe Blackberry are moving to Webkit as well at some point. This engine has some of the best support for parts of CSS 3 available at the moment, as well as quite a lot of proprietary extensions.

I would recommend researching what is available in WebKit, and then testing.

A great resource for support tables is http://www.quirksmode.org where PPK is doing more and more mobile browser testing to answer just these kind of questions.

http://www.russellbeattie.com/blog/css3-and-the-death-of-handheld-stylesheets

An Introduction to the Mobile Web:

http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/introduction-to-the-mobile-web/

The Mobile Phone Directory –  Phone Specifications, Glossary of Terms:

http://www.mobile-phone-directory.org/

Mobile Web Glossary from the BBC:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mobile/web/glossary.shtml?d

WURFL — Wireless Universal Resource File —  (SourceForge):

http://wurfl.sourceforge.net/

WURFL API Intro:

http://wurfl.sourceforge.net/newapi/

WURFL Java API:

http://wurfl.sourceforge.net/njava/

Wikipedia Entry – Microbrowser:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microbrowser

Wikipedia Entry – Mobile Phone:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_phone

Cameron Moll’s Mobile Web Design Series:

Part 1: http://www.cameronmoll.com/archives/000415.html

Part 2: http://www.cameronmoll.com/archives/000428.html

Part 3: http://www.cameronmoll.com/archives/000577.html

Making Small Devices Look Great:

http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/making-small-devices-look-great/

The Pros and Cons of Developing a Mobile Version of Your Website:

http://www.dirjournal.com/articles/mobile-search-the-pro-and-cons-of-developing-a-mobile-version-of-your-website/

Bulletproof Mobile Device Detection:

http://www.bushidodesigns.net/blog/mobile-device-detection-css-without-user-agent/

A List Apart: “Return of the Handheld Stylesheet”:

http://www.alistapart.com/articles/return-of-the-mobile-stylesheet

A List Apart: “Put Your Content in My Pocket” (iPhone information):

http://www.alistapart.com/articles/putyourcontentinmypocket/

A List Apart: “Understanding Progressive Enhancement”:

http://www.alistapart.com/articles/understandingprogressiveenhancement/

Progressive Enhancement for Mobile Media Queries:

http://www.iheni.com/progressive-enhancement-for-mobile-media-queries/

Server-Side Scripting for Bulk Mobile Site Page Re-engineering:

http://www.mikeindustries.com/blog/archive/2005/07/make-your-site-mobile-friendly

Mobile Browser / Mobile Web Usage Statistics

http://gs.statcounter.com/#mobile_browser-ww-monthly-200903-201004

http://www.upsdell.com/BrowserNews/stat_trends.htm

http://www.webdevelopersnotes.com/articles/mobile-web-browser-usage-statistics.php

http://developer.apple.com/safari/library/technotes/tn2010/tn2262.html

http://johannburkard.de/blog/www/mobile/mobile-browser-statistics-webkit-on-the-rise-opera-losing-share.html

http://moconews.net/article/419-the-top-mobile-browsers-are-not-what-you-think/


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You’re reading Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a blog stuffed with years of articles about Boston technology startups and venture capital-backed companies, software development, Agile project management, managing software teams, designing web-based business applications, running successful software development projects, ecommerce and telecommunications.

About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. I have been working in the software engineering and ecommerce industries for over fifteen years. My interests include computers, electronics, robotics and programmable microcontrollers, and I am an avid outdoorsman and guitar player. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, follow me on Quora, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurship, ecommerce, telecommunications and software development, I’m a Technical PMO Director, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of several ecommerce and web-based software startups, the latest of which are Twitterminers.com and Tshirtnow.net.

What is NFC? What is the smartphone mobile payments technology known as Near Field Communications? March 6, 2011

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It has been several years now that I have been reading and hearing about mobile phone toting consumers being able to purchase soft drinks from vending machines through the use of SMS texts to the vending machine.

The possibilities of a mobile digital wallet, a North American equivalent of European Smartcards and mobile SMS payments systems, to be used as a payments service for smartphones, certainly include the hypothetical future displacement of the cash register as the payment method of choice for consumers on the go.

NFC, or Near Field Communication, may perhaps have such a potential.

Since the middle of December, in and around Portland, Oregon, Google has been handing out hundreds of NFC kits to local businesses as part of an NFC trial they are calling “Hotpot”.

The Google Hotpot kits include special NFC-capable window decals. NFC is a low power technology that beams and receives wireless information from up to four inches away. When consumers with NFC-equipped telephones such as the latest models of Android operating system cellular phones, scan a NFC-equiped window decal, they will be presented with information on their mobile device such as business hours, reviews, and more.

The hope is that the increasingly mobile consumer will willingly engage with local merchants using this new technology, allowing merchants to interact with the generations of consumers growing up with texting and mobile smartphones in their pockets.

2011 is really shaping up to be the year of NFC, with Google considering building an NFC-based payment service in the U.S. that could make its debut later this year. The technology would let customers pay for items by passing their smartphone over a small reader. A single NFC chip would be able to hold a consumer’s bank account information, gift cards, loyalty cards, and coupons, say the two people, who requested anonymity because the plans aren’t public. Google’s NFC scheme includes an advertising component that would allow merchants to beam a coupon or other reward to customers while they are shopping.

Of course, advanced smartphone owners can already complete mobile transactions by downloading payment applications. Paypal’s iPhone iOS application, for example, lets PayPal users transmit funds to other PayPal account holders. But NFC technology could potentially streamline such transactions. Users of advanced smartphones equipped with NFC technology don’t need to launch an application; they simply wave or tap their smartphone against a small reader device and enter a PIN number on it to authenticate their purchases.

A Google NFC network offering would encounter stiff competition from the start from the likes of companies such as Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, the three of whom in November 2010 formed a joint commercial venture called ISIS that plans to launch an NFC-based payments service by 2012. Visa is also field testing several mobile payment technologies, including NFC, and plans a commercial rollout later this year. It is rumored that PayPal, a division of eBay, may test an NFC service in the second half of 2011 as well.

Silicon Valley is hard at work on NFC technology too, with Apple having filed a patent for a process to transmit money between cellular telephones using NFC. Apple recently hired NFC expert Benjamin Vigier away from mFoundry, a startup that helps banks build mobile payments applications. If the next iPhone does come equipped with an NFC chip, then perhaps Apple will process mobile payments through Apple’s iTunes store.

The increased competition and jockeying for position in the NFC space is undoubtedly due to the high stakes involved, as the prize for whoever wins the NFC race is a dominant position in a small but fast-growing market that could displace the cash register in time. A leading market research firm, IE Market Research, estimates that by 2014, NFC-based payment systems will account for a third of the $1.13 trillion in worldwide mobile transactions.

In mid-December, Google, whose former CEO, Eric Schmidt, has said that NFC will “eventually replace credit cards”, in December 2010 bought Zetawire, a Canadian startup with several NFC patents to its name, including a novel method for diners to split up and pay a restaurant bill using their smartphones. If Google does decide to launch an NFC payments network, they would have the built-in advantage of its very large and rapidly expanding installed user base of Android smartphone owners. Every single day, around 300,000 people activate Android telephones, and they accounted for more than 25 percent of the new smartphones shipped in the third quarter of 2010, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The latest version of Google’s smartphone operating system, Android, capable of reading NFC tags is dubbed Gingerbread. Later this year, software updates to Android will let Android smartphones transmit information using NFC as well. In December 2010, Google introduced its Nexus S smartphone, based on Android Gingerbread and carrying an NFC chip onboard. In January 2011, Starbucks announced that customers would be able to start using a bar-code application on their smartphones to purchase coffee in some 6,800 of its stores.

There are obstacles to widespread consumer adoption, however. For an NFC-based payments network to really work, Google needs to convince not just Android smartphone owners but also local merchants who must install NFC readers to process mobile payments. Hotpot, which Google has been promoting heavily, introduces merchants to the NFC technology. NFC is already in heavy use in parts of Asia and Europe.


Want to know more?

You’re reading Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a blog stuffed with years of articles about Boston technology startups and venture capital-backed companies,software developmentAgile project managementmanaging software teams, designing web-based business applications, running successful software development projectsecommerce and telecommunications.

About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurshipecommercetelecommunications andsoftware development, I’m a Technical PMO Director, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of TwitterMiners.com & Tshirtnow.net.


How many online stores are on the Shopify ecommerce platform? What are some interesting shops on Shopify? Who are the top Shopify merchants? February 27, 2011

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Per Shopify Corporate numbers dated 31 December 2010, there were 11,323 active merchants using Shopify as their ecommerce solution.

Those stores had over 2.7 million customers, who placed 1.6 million orders in 2010, generating $124 million in sales within that year, which was double the sales on Shopify stores in 2009.

Year over year, the raw numbers and percentage increases of Shopify merchants’ stores, total online sales through the Shopify platform, and total number of online orders placed on the Shopify platform from 2009 to 2010 were:

1. Number of Shopify merchant stores: 6,656 (2009) -> 11,323 (2010) [a 70% YOY increase]

2. Sales through Shopify: $59 million (2009) -> $124 million (2010) [a 110% YOY increase]

3. Number of orders processed through Shopify: .69 million (2009) -> 1.6 million (2010) [a 132% YOY increase]

I have been using Shopify since the early days, being one of the top RoR, or Ruby-0n-Rails, ecommerce applications. I have found it to be stable, easy to use, fast and dependably reliable. It is easy to customize and develop for. Very quick and easy to get started, and a store gets up and running quickly. I am available to share all that I have learned about running Shopify. Feel free to drop me an email.

Paul, Hub Tech Insider, Shopify Merchant.

visit my Shopify store: http://www.tshirtnow.net

Check out this great article:

Why the Shopify Platform is a big deal for application developers

Other Top Shopify Merchants:

Tesla Motors
GitHub
Foo Fighters
Amnesty International
Evisu Jeans
Robin Piccone
Bento & Co.
Madsen Cycles

The Indianapolis Star Tribune

Cuba Gallery
LadyBugsPicnic
Moka Joe Coffee
Dodo Case
Pouchee
Sugar Baking
EBoy
One+Only
Kindred Market
Peridot Lovers
Dace
unotre store
Alpine Exposures
Pattern Head
Gold Cart Tires n More
nestliving
Ark
Raw Crunch
Good as Gold
The Heads of State
Zoku
Designing Obama

Operation Phoenix
Slaughterhead
La Patate
Love Your Home For Less
Alfresco by Design
Cush Potatoes
Nerdbots
Clothing + Kindness
Hammerpress
Dan 300
The Hull Design
Rambles
Jues Textileinzelhandel
A Piedi
The Boat Safe
Beacon’s Closet
StarBlu Luxury Resort Wear
Independent Origins Trading Company
Binkie
Somos
Trix & Dandy
Dem Collective

Boston’s AisleBuyer, a developer of smartphone-driven self-checkout technology for retailers, raises $4 Million December 9, 2010

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Boston’s AisleBuyer, a developer of smartphone-driven self-checkout technology for retailers, raises $4 Million from the founding investor of the following companies: InnerWorkings, Echo Global Logistics, Mediabank, Forseva and Groupon. [The Editor wishes to thank AisleBuyer’s Marketing Coordinator Katie Despres for pointing out a factual error in my earlier posting regarding the source of the investment capital, and I further wish AisleBuyer the best of good fortune in their exciting and important business venture!]

Oracle acquires Cambridge based eCommerce software provider Art Technology Group, Inc (ATG) for $1.0 Billion in cash November 22, 2010

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Oracle acquires Cambridge based eCommerce software provider Art Technology Group, Inc (ATG) for $1.0 Billion in cash.

Cambridge, MA based ATG provides high end eCommerce software that is used by more than 1,000 customers globally. By combining forces, Oracle and ATG expect to help businesses grow revenue, strengthen customer loyalty, improve brand value, achieve better operating results, and increase business agility across online and traditional commerce environments.

“Driven by the convergence of online and traditional commerce and the need to increase revenue and improve customer loyalty, organizations across many industries are looking for a unified commerce and CRM platform to provide a seamless experience across all commerce channels,” said Thomas Kurian, Executive Vice President Oracle Development. “Bringing together the complementary technologies and products from Oracle and ATG will enable the delivery of next-generation, unified cross-channel commerce and CRM.”

“The addition of ATG, which brings market-leading products used by some of the largest and most well-known retailers and brands, furthers Oracle’s strategy of delivering industry-specific enterprise applications,” said Bob Weiler, Executive Vice President, Oracle Global Business Units. “This acquisition builds upon our dedication to offer the most complete and integrated suite of best-of-breed software applications and technologies required to power the most demanding companies in the world in every industry.”

ATG’s revenue for the third quarter of 2010 grew to $50.3 million, a 16% increase over third quarter 2009 revenue of $43.4 million. Oracle will pay $6.00 per share in cash for the company. The transaction is subject to stockholder and regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions and is expected to close by early 2011.

What is EDIINT? What is AS2, and how does it differ from AS3 or AS4? November 2, 2010

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What is EDIINT? What is AS2, and how does it differ from AS3 or AS4?


EDI, or Electronic Data Interchange, is a format used by large enterprises for exchanging digital information about purchase orders, invoices, and other business supply chain related information with other companies, businesses, and enterprises.


EDIINT stands for EDI over INTernet.


One of the concerns and needs of the large business enterprises using EDI for electronic transactions throughout the 1990’s was the burgeoning requirement from these enterprises to be able to exchange EDI formatted data streams over the public Internet, securely. Towards the late 1990’s, EDIINT using a secure digital transmission conduit over the public Internet, called AS1, technology was standardized and released by the web standards bodies.


The AS1 protocol leveraged SMTP (standard Simple Mail Transport Protocol, or Internet email) as the foundation for exchanging communications. During this early phase of EDIINT deployments and AS1 protocol adoption, several software vendors emerged, offering to eliminate the de rigeur (for the time) VAN (Value-Added Network) fees that were commonly levied against large enterprises by the VANs then in existence. The development of the AS1 protocol, which allowed transfer of EDI messages and transactions securely over the public Internet, should have enabled these large enterprises to use AS1 to connect point-to-point with each other securely over the public Internet without need of VANs or their fee structures.


But although the ideal of AS1 was certainly promising, the promised elimination of VAN network access fees never really materialized, and the AS1 protocol unfortunately did not encounter widespread adoption and acceptance by the larger enterprises’ IT organizations. Several common reasons were behind this shunning of AS1 by corporate IT departments. One reason was the fear of larger enterprises that moving away from the liability endemnification of the VAN networks to transmissions over the (albeit secured) public Internet using AS1 was not quite ready for wholesale adoption by large scale enterprises in mission critical transaction environments. Another reason was some corporate IT departments were fearful, with considerable justification, of overloading enterprise email servers with EDI traffic as a result of the AS1 protocol’s dependence upon secured SMTP packets, which would route through corporate Microsoft Exchange or other SMTP email servers. In addition, SMTP email did not encorporate enough feature robustness to ensure the real time delivery of SMTP email and, more critically, enforce the non-repudiation features of the EDI standards then in common use.


The next incarnation of EDIINT emerged in 2001 with the new AS2 protocol superceding the earlier AS1. AS2 was designed from the start to address the same needs and requirements of the earlier AS1 protocol, but with the major distinction that AS2 was based upon the HTTP protocol instead of AS1’s reliance on the SMTP protocol. AS2’s use of HTTP instead of SMTP provided a more direct and realtime connection for transmitting EDI data between companies. The use of HTTP, combined with the growing acceptance of the Internet as a serious venue for international commerce, led to AS2 gaining a much stronger foundation upon deployment and saw AS2 gain a significant foothold into corporate IT departments in terms of adoption and implementation that AS1 had never enjoyed. But although interest in AS2 was greater than it had been for AS1, AS2 still did not reach mainstream wholesale adoption from large corporate enterprises.


Walmart and the adoption of AS2


The lack of enthusiasm at the corporate level for AS1 and AS2 adoption largely came about because of the lack of a “Market Maker”, or a powerful intermediary enforcing adoption and deployment of AS2 for EDIINT. Two companies were required to decide together to use a protocol such as AS1 or AS2, as either protocol necessitates coordination on both ends. This meant that although an enterprise might make the decision to work with a significant partner or primary systems integrator to deploy AS2, for most of that enterprises’s supplier, customer and vendor business relationships, the payoff would hardly be worth the effort.

All of this changed overnight in 2002 when Walmart announced that their entire EDI transactions and transmissions program would be moving over to the AS2 protocol and that *all* of their suppliers were expected – required absolutely, in typical Walmart fashion – to follow suit. Walmart’s decision was the tipping point for AS2’s widespread adoption and deployment across many industries and enterprises of various scale. Walmart’s reputation as a supply chain industry thought leader, as well as their renowned strong-arm tactics with their suppliers and vendors, forced other large enterprises to follow their lead. Walmart’s dictat led to positive feedback loops and various other network effects as a large number of Walmart suppliers fully AS2 enabled led to a growing ecosystem of AS2 -enabled vendors and supplies in the marketplace. Thus it became even easier for recalcitrant suppliers to justify jumping into the EDIINT, AS2 pool. AS2 enabled suppliers were able to easily extend their transactional AS2-based EDIINT systems into a vibrant community of AS2 enabled enterprises. As a result, by 2003 AS2 became one of the most popular data protocols for EDI transmissions within North America.


Europe and the Odette File Transfer Protocol V2, or OFTP V2


Despite the rapid spread of AS2 in the United States, Canada and Mexico, however, AS2 adoption lagged in Europe. The major reason for the discrepancy of AS2 adoption rates between North America and Europe was the lack of a European market maker ala Walmart in the United States. Without a key champion like Walmart driving the rapid adoption of AS2 in Europe, AS2 usage has taken a much longer time to spread into Europe’s major enterprises.


Into this vacuum, a new standard has emerged in Europe which may supplant the adoption of AS2 entirely if enough enterprises of scale in Europe decide to adopt it. The standard’s name is Version 2 of the Odette File Transfer Protocol, or OFTP V2, and it is a very similar protocol to AS2 in the fact that it leverages both the public Internet and HTTP for connectivity. In Europe, large automotive enterprises such as Volkswagen, Volva and PSA are driving the adoption of OFTP V2 in an industry-wide effort to reduce costly VAN networking fees. This wave of automotive suppliers supporting OFTP V2 should follow a similar pattern, although perhaps on not quite as large a scale, to the adoption of AS2 in North America by retail suppliers and vendors in response to Walmart’s urgings and data integration requirements.


Future EDIINT Standards: AS3 and AS4 and SOA


Future standards likely to emerge within the next iterations of EDIINT are likely to include AS3, which is based upon FTP, and AS4, which is based upon web services. Each of these newer variants contains benefits not available to users of AS2, for instance, AS3 does not require an ‘always on’ connection and could potentially handle large files better than AS2. AS4 can integrate with SOA (Services Oriented Architecture) software infrastructures with relative ease, something that is prohibitively difficult at present with AS2. Despite these technological advances, if a large enterprise or company is trying to determine which protocol is more apropos to use for EDI transmissions, they are likely to choose AS2 despite its limitations simply because the large community of companies already using AS2 versus trying to forge an uncertain path trailblazing the use of AS3 or AS4 in the absence of a market maker as mentioned above.


So until another market maker emerges to drive the adoption of AS3 or AS4 as Walmart did with AS2, AS2 will continue to be the de facto standard for EDI transmissions over the Internet. Instead of companies and large enterprises across different industries moving to AS3 or AS4, AS2 is instead adopting features that address the benefits available in those other standards. For example, an effort is under way to add “Restart” capability to AS2 that was announced recently, and this would provide some of the better support for larger file transfers that we have seen in AS3.


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You’re reading Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a blog stuffed with years of articles about Boston technology startups and venture capital-backed companies,software developmentAgile project managementmanaging software teams, designing web-based business applications, running successful software development projectsecommerce and telecommunications.

About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurshipecommercetelecommunications andsoftware development, I’m the Director, Technical Projects at eSpendWise, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of Tshirtnow.net.

Beverley’s ecommerce startup Searchandise Commerce raises $7 Million April 18, 2010

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Beverley’s ecommerce startup Searchandise Commerce raises $7 Million from a group of investors lead by new investor Madrona Venture Group. The financing also had backing from return investors Cloquet Capital Partners LLC, DFJ Gotham Partners, Draper Associates, Milestone Venture Partners, Inflection Point Ventures and Wheatley Partners. As part of the funding round, Madrona managing director Brian McAndrews will join the Searchandise board of directors.


The Beverly-based company, which focuses on search-based e-commerce, said in a press release that it plans to direct the funding toward growing the sales and marketing, as well as operations.


Searchandise Commerce offers a product ad network and uses a cost-per-click system of placing searches on the company’s SearchNet network of comparison shopping engines and retailers. Searchandise has changed its name from Guidester Inc. and shifted its focus from its previous role as a navigational tools company.


Woburn’s Demandware raises $22 Million in a Series D add-on round April 12, 2010

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Woburn’s Demandware, an ecommerce software maker, raises $22 Million in a Series D add-on round from General Catalyst Partners and North Bridge Venture Partners.

LA’s Magneto Software, Open Source Ecommerce Platform Powerhouse, Raises $22.5 Million and gets ready to kick sand in kümmerlich Demandware’s face March 22, 2010

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You’ve read here before about the grimmig shape Woburn’s (and Deutschland’s) tiny non-IPO’ing Demandware looks to be in right about now. Well, things are looking even worse for the durchfallend company today, as Los Angeles-based Open Source Ecommerce Platform Powerhouse Magneto Software has announced they have raised $22.5 Million Green American Dollars from a group of undisclosed investors, and their armies are on the march. The never-humble, always self-serving Demandware founder, Stephan Schambach, no doubt reeling from his company’s dimming IPO hopes and shrinking client base, has recently been picking a series of kindlich fights with the American company with a tutonic bluster that would have made Field Marshall Von Kesselring blush. As usual, Demandware has trotted out an endless series of their own marketing and PR flaks to churn out schadenfreude “press releases” denying that they are caught in an Open Source Crossfire reminiscent of the Kessel at Stalingrad. Even Demandware’s Ulrike Müller, “Chief Software Architect” (of Germanic dinosaur J2ee code bloat?) has chimed in with a completely unbiased bit of ranting. Now LA’s Magneto (taking the metaphor further) has scored a major victory with an enourmous $22.5 Million dar Bozhii, or “gift from God,” of an investment from a group of undisclosed investors, which they will undoubtedly use to beat Demandware over the head with. It’s put up or shut up time, Schlaubergern!


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Dedham’s Reflexis Systems, a maker of retail management software, raises $6 Million March 8, 2010

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Dedham’s Reflexis Systems, a maker of retail management software, raises $6 Million from a group of undisclosed investors.

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Cambridge’s Allurent, an ecommerce technology company, raises $2 Million March 1, 2010

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Cambridge’s Allurent, an ecommerce technology company, raises $2 Million in a Series C round of equity capital from Waltham’s Polaris Venture Partners.

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Cambridge’s ATG, Inc., acquires Seattle’s InstantService, Inc., for $17 Million January 24, 2010

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Cambridge’s ATG, Inc., (Art Technology Group) an ecommerce technology company, acquires Seattle’s InstantService, Inc., a provider of live chat services used predominantly in live tech help situations, for $17 Million.

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Zeemote, a Chelmsford, MA-based startup that developed a handheld game controller for use with games on mobile handsets, has closed its doors November 11, 2009

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Zeemote, a Chelmsford, MA-based startup that developed a handheld game controller for use with games on mobile handsets, has closed its doors and is putting its assets up for sale. Founded in 2005 by famed Boston-area entrepreneur Beth Marcus, the company worked with handset manufacturers Nokia, Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson, and RIM to make its Bluetooth-based device compatible with their phones. A partner from Waltham, MA -based Zeemote backer Commonwealth Capital Ventures confirmed the closure but offered no further details.

I was lucky enough to have met in person the CEO of Zeemote, Beth Marcus. Beth is a famed entrepreneur in the Boston area, and I met her at the time of her involvement with an Internet retailer named Glow Dog. Beth is active in the MIT Enterprise Forum and some 128 Networking and entrepreneurship circles, and after attending one of Beth’s talks on company valuation one early morning at the Newton Marriot in Newton, MA (a well-known and heavily traveled local hotspot for technology and software, hardware startups’ networking and professional group meetings in the area) Beth and I struck up a conversation, which was followed by Beth granting me a private tour of Glow Dog’s facility and retail store along Great Road in Bedford center and lunch at a local Japanese Restaurant.

Beth was generous with her time and expertise and the time she graciously spent with me that day not only provided me with several nearly priceless insights about my business plan and company (I was working on an ecommerce company at the time, TSN Corporation), but also provided a blueprint of how a successful entrepreneur should give back to the community. Beth Marcus is the real deal and I thank her heartily for her time and knowledge sharing.

Beth Marcus has been Founder and CEO of several successful startups, most notably EXOS, Inc., which was venture capital backed and sold to Microsoft in 1996. Since then she has been involved in 12 start-ups in a variety of fields as a founder, investor, or advisor. One of the companies Beth founded was called Glow Dog and was based on Great Road in Bedford. The company was an Internet retailer and sold pet products with a pet safety orientation both at retail and wholesale to many large pet-oriented retail chains both online and off. She has raised equity numerous times and has also done angel investments herself. Several of these ventures have been acquired by public companies.

Part-time between then and now, Beth has worked as a consultant providing patent strategy, litigation support, and other strategic technology-related consulting services. Beth is an acknowledged expert in the hand-device interface space and has been an expert for several of the major players in the industry in support of prior-patents litigations. That knowledge and the clear problems in using a cell phone keypad for anything but number entry led her to invention, filing of a patent application, and the founding of Zeemote, Inc.

Beth has SB and SM in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and a PhD in Biomechanics from the Imperial College, London, where she was a Marshall Scholar. She has more than a dozen patents to her name and numerous publications and public speaking engagements. She has served on the faculty of MIT in the department of Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Marcus has been member of the Board of the MIT Enterprise Forum and the MIT Corporation Visiting Committee in Mechanical Engineering. She is also a current member of the Council for the Arts at MIT.

Zeemote JS1 Product Profile and Interview with Beth Marcus, CEO of Zeemote from Ablegamers

Zeemote Hands-On Review from Ubergizmo with Pictures of the Remote Unit for Cellular Telephones

Beth Marcus Profiled at Mass High Tech Magazine

Burlington, MA-based Exa sells Supercomputing as an on-demand service in the Cloud June 8, 2009

Posted by HubTechInsider in Supercomputing.
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Burlington, MA-based Exa sells supercomputing cycles as a Cloud service over the Internet.

Exa is a privately held 170-person outfit in burlington, MA that sells supercomputer time by the slice. The company was launched in 1992 by selling fluid dynamics simulation software one of its MIT founders created while a professor there.

The company owns a network of 3,500 Intel and AMD-based servers and has the capability to rent thousands more. These servers are housed by IBM in their Poughkeepsie, NY data center.

Exa charges around a dollar per processor core per hour for the supercomputer time, which is offered over the Internet using Exa’s modeling software as a “Cloud computing” option, much as Google lets users access documents and spreadsheets over the web or Amazon’s EC2 service rents out simple processing and storage capability.

Exa’s had revenues of $34 million in 2008, with on-demand supercomputer services accounting for $10.5 MM, up from 48% in 2007. Software sales grew a mere 13% to $21 million last year.

Selling supercomputing as a service is still just a tiny fraction of the $9.8 billion market for high-performance computing. But others such as oil-services firm Schlumberger are also selling supercomputing services to a select client base and industry vertical.

Exa has several customers with “bursty” supercomputing needs, such as Dodge and Peugeot, the U.S. National Bobsled Team, and tractor manufacturer Agco.

Demandware gets Round D funding of $15MM and works to answer SaaS ecommerce challenges, under incredible marketplace pressures May 23, 2009

Posted by HubTechInsider in Ecommerce, Uncategorized, Venture Capital.
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Recently I tweeted about Demandware (Woburn, MA) not getting their Round D funding – this was incorrect, and I have retracted this information. The link to the $15 million Form D filing with the SEC is here

[There were rounds of layoffs at Demandware around spring 2009, just prior to this Round D. Round D is generally the last round of financing before an IPO. Many of their employees in Woburn, Massachusetts were laid off. Interesting move. Without this $15 million, it was unclear to many outside observers how strong Demandware’s cash position would have been. Take care to distinguish between “brands” and actual “accounts”. Demandware has lost some high profile accounts (their model is to skim off 3% of sales in addition to setup and hosting fees – despite this, Demandware still has a “burn rate”) that they don’t exactly mention in their press releases. A SaaS (“Software as a Service”) provider such as Demandware is nowadays caught in the crossfire, under incredible pressure from three fronts: powerful and robust, open source ecommerce solutions leverage the cost argument (Magneto), Java-based solutions are starting to get long-in-the-tooth in the face of massively scalable new technologies such as Ruby-on-Rails, and developments in cloud computing leverage the hosting argument. Predictably, Demandware and their PR corps is hard at work dissembling so as to position themselves as the “worry-free package for merchants without in-house technology competence”. Of course, this competence is easily found on the cheap now that it is no longer 2000, and J2EE for ecommerce seems (to many) like a complex, costly, code-bloat dinosaur. Read the commentary below and make up your own mind, Dear Reader. It will be interesting to see if they are able to hold on — I’m rooting for them, however, if I were you and your enterprise, I would still take a long, hard look at Magento, Shopify, or other ecommerce providers. And I would have a lot of tough questions like the ones below ready for the Salespeople and PR types]

So Demandware may even IPO one day – although despite all the optimism about 2009, this year is still looking grim for new issuances. A recent report from Ernst & Young found that the pipeline of companies waiting to go public in the United States dwindled to 80 companies at the end of the second quarter, down from 90 companies three months earlier. There have been seven IPOs so far in 2009.

Demandware is a SaaS (Software as a Service) provider, and with all the controversy surrounding my incorrect, retracted tweet, I have been thinking about some of the reasons enterprises might decide against adopting a SaaS model for their ecommerce operations.

Although it can be tempting for large retail enterprises to partner with a SaaS ecommerce platform vendor to quickly launch an online store for short-term gains, it is important that the CIOs of these retail enterprises develop a defined SaaS strategy and incorporate it into their other long-term application and IT infrastructure plans. One of the most important aspects of this SaaS strategy must be an “exit strategy” for when they may want to bring the online storefront in-house. Hard to blame any company for ditching the revenue-sharing model.

It is vital that when these retail organizations evaluate SaaS ecommerce providers, they evaluate the competing ecommerce platform vendors on whether or not they have a plan and method in place to get the retail enterprise off the SaaS platform – in other words, what is the exit strategy in the long term? Five years out, when the online storefront is growing and becomes a cornerstone of the company’s total revenue stream, how does the retailer migrate the storefront back into the corporate IT environment if the management of the company decides to reintegrate? After the first two years of a SaaS deployment, many enterprises find that cost savings begin to break down. Five years from initial deployment, will it be possible to reestablish control over the online retail presence?

Choosing an ecommerce platform vendor working with hosted technologies that align with the enterprise’s internal IT infrastructure (Microsoft .Net technologies vs. Java? Oracle, MS SQL Server, or MySQL?) could potentially ease migration pain down the road and enable cost savings when and if the decision to internalize critical ecommerce operations is made.

Ecommerce “on demand” software salespeople may try and attract a large retail organization with the promise of utility pricing – it may even sound so good that the large retail enterprise may be tempted into bypassing their normal IT department’s procurement specialists. This is not a good idea. Real utility pricing is almost certainly not as flexible as initially presented and true utility pricing is rarely available. Because many SaaS contracts do not allow for volume reductions, some critics have labeled this licensing model as “shelfware as a service”. 

It is critical that large retail organizations negotiate the ability to reduce users. Do not allow the “on demand” vendor to lock the enterprise into negotiations before agreement on this basic principle is reached. If the “on demand” ecommerce platform vendor does not or will not agree to this basic tenent, then refuse over-committal and negotiate escalating discounts for incremental spend in volume bands. Large retail organizations should always remember that SaaS licensing models provide steady and stable revenue streams for ecommerce “on demand” vendors and because of this, the market is becoming increasingly competitive. (Demandware’s competition includes Marketlive ecommerce, among many others)  Large retail organizations have immense leverage which can be used to achieve significant licensing concessions and discounts on larger competitive deals. In addition, given the increasing and continual downward pressure on SaaS pricing, single year deals are much preferred but it is essential to secure price caps on renewals.

The vendor’s “on demand” production environment should also be scrutinized carefully. Some questions to get answered in writing may be: How often are changes made to the production environment? What is the breakdown of changes to the production environment by category? What percentage of changes had to be rolled back, or reverted? What sorts of regression tests are performed after a software patch / upgrade / code iteration? 

It is vital that a keen eye is focused on the SaaS vendor’s churn and churn management (for instance, Demandware has recently lost two major accounts that you won’t read about in their press releases, including Playboy International and the Vermont Teddy Bear Company) policies. For example, how many customers have they lost in the past 6, 12, 24 months? Is their customer retention improving over time? What percentage is the customer churn compared to their customer base? What is the average duration of customer retention? What is the breakdown, broken out by reasons for customer churn? Beware of salespeople and marketing types who count “brands” as individual customers. A customer is a retail organization, not each of their individual product lines counted separately as “brands”.

Some ecommerce “on demand” vendors also provide for fulfillment services (if they do not, the retail organization will have to continue to provide these services as a normal operating business expense). High volume retail ecommerce by necessity implies that these operational expediencies are being handled with great care and efficiency. Some questions to ask: what is the status of your inventory? What box is located where? What function or customer would be affected by a loss of a certain box? When does your software / support contract expire and what might this expiration impact? 

Another primary focus for corporate ecommerce vendor selection decision makers is the emergence of platform-as-a-service providers such as Amazon’s EC2, IBM and Google as well as Microsoft. Large retail organizations can use these platforms to build myriad applications, services and workflows not only to conduct online sales but also to perform advanced predictive analytics, gather fundamental mail order management metrics like future value of a customer and enable billing services to be moved into the cloud – all while providing immense capabilities for increasing uptime and availability during the high volume holiday shopping season.

Some best practice ecommerce SaaS platform selection guidelines could also include data backup and disaster recovery policies, adherence to corporate IT standards regarding accepted technologies and development tools and languages that internal software development resources and departments are familiar with. SLAs (Service Level Agreements) should be examined from ecommerce platform vendors that explore not only DR policies, but also help desk support, performance and uptime, so that buyers of SaaS ecommerce hosting services have a stronger sense of what they are purchasing.

Large retail enterprises have special needs to link internal billing and operational IT systems and external hosted ecommerce systems. Security, billing, fulfillment and compliance requirements differ from industry to industry and over-reliance on a hosted ecommerce service provider should be carefully examined. Retail enterprise decision makers may decide to get back to the fundamental vendor selection process, and take a long hard look at vendor viability in addition to the solution functionality provided by each hosted ecommerce service provider. These decisions should extend past the initial glow of cost savings in the first years of an ecommerce storefront deployment. 

 

In a Feb 20th, 2009 research report, Forrester polled 352 corporate IT decision makers and asked them why they are not interested in SaaS:

Total Cost Concerns                                                       37%

Security Concerns                                                           30%

SaaS Application Mismatch to corporate reqs                  25%

Integration Issues                                                           25%

Lack of Customization                                                   21%

Application Performance                                              20%

Complex Pricing Models                                               16%

Vendor Lock-In                                                               14%

Other Reasons                                                                 13%

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