Mobile Industry on the Move June 14

— June 14, 2014

Change happens fast in mobile—here's a few from last week you might have missed.

Google
Google has entered into an agreement to buy Skybox Imaging for $500 million cash. Skybox’s satellites will help keep Google Maps accurate with up-to-date imagery, and,  over time, will be able to help improve Internet access and disaster relief—spaces Google has long been interested in.

Yankee Group VP of Research Carl Howe commented, “This acquisition makes total sense because satellite imagery is such an essential part of Google Maps. Having a satellite imaging capability in-house will mean Google can tailor that service exactly to what Google Maps and Google Earth need. However, using Skybox for Internet service is more of a stretch. An imaging satellite only needs to communicate with earth stations and doesn't require a high-power satellite-to-earth system referred to as a downlink. A satellite providing Internet service, on the other hand, requires two-way broadband connections: a very-high-power downlink path so that the signal can be received by small dishes as well as a very specialized uplink system to receive data from consumers. Running that type of specialized satellite service will require a very different set of infrastructure and skills, so I wouldn’t expect to see results from this acquisition in that area for several years.”

BlackBerry
To provide a secure platform that supports transaction services between leading banks and consumers, BlackBerry has entered into a new three-year agreement with EnStream LP—a mobile payments joint venture owned by Canadian wireless carriers Bell, Rogers and TELUS.

Under the agreement, EnStream will leverage BlackBerry’s infrastructure to enable financial institutions, including Royal Bank of Canada, TD Bank Group, CIBC and Desjardins, and mobile operators to securely provision sensitive payment card credentials into any smartphone capable of near field communication.

“EnStream, with BlackBerry, is already serving a number of banks and mobile operators, and is becoming a hub for payment credential delivery to smartphones in Canada,” said Almis Ledas, Chief Operating Officer, Enstream LP. “We expect most major Canadian banks and mobile operators to connect through this platform to meet consumer demand for efficient and safe digital transactions.”

In order to provide this platform, BlackBerry needed to protect the sensitive data associated with financial transactions and meet the stringent requirements of the payment industry. This included complying with regulations and earning PCI, Visa and MasterCard certification.

“Canada is a leading global region in the adoption of technology and mobile payments, making it a key market for MasterCard innovation,” said Nicolas Dinh, Vice President of Emerging Payments, MasterCard. “Safe and secure digital transactions are the backbone of our network and mobile payment ecosystem, and BlackBerry’s involvement in the payment chain will help build trust in Canada and abroad.”

Samsung
Samsung added three new executives to its leadership team: Robin Bienfait as executive vice president and chief enterprise innovation officer of Global Enterprise Services; John Pleasants as executive vice president of Samsung Media Solutions Center America (MSCA); and Mark Louison as senior vice president of Wireless Network Systems.

“We welcome these talented leaders to the Samsung family as we continue to drive leadership and enhance our business footprint in the market,” said Gregory Lee, President and CEO of Samsung Electronics North America. “Their leadership will strengthen our organization in areas where we see tremendous opportunity for growth and will further our goal of putting the most innovative technology in the hands of our customers. “

Bienfait has more than 30 years of experience in mobility, security, business development, enterprise sales, wireless network operations and engineering. She most recently served as CIO for BlackBerry where she led the enterprise business unit, end-to-end security, customer service engagement, global network services and corporate IT. In her new role she will be responsible for building strong partnerships with large global customers and scaling Samsung’s suite of enterprise solutions and services.

Pleasants brings more than 20 years of experience in the digital media and gaming space, most recently serving as co-president of Disney Interactive Media Group. He will lead Samsung’s U.S. content and services strategy with a focus on strengthening and expanding the current portfolio of offerings.
Louison has extensive leadership experience delivering growth, profitability and innovation, while leading organizations through enterprise transformations. He previously held leadership roles at Nokia and Nokia Networks and most recently served as senior advisor at The Boston Consulting Group, where he provided executive council on client engagements in the technology, media and telecom practice area. At Samsung, he will be responsible for managing existing customer relationships and developing new business opportunities to increase market share within the U.S. wireless networks industry.

Twitter
Twitter Inc. confirmed that Ali Rowghani resigned as chief operating officer, effective Thursday, June 12. The company will not replace him and his responsibilities will be assumed by other management.
 
He tweeted:  ‏@ROWGHANI Goodbye Twitter. It's been an amazing ride, and I will cherish the memories.
 
It's been reported, however, that he will continue to act as a strategic advisor to Twitter.
 
Amtrak
To provide passengers a true broadband experience, Amtrak is exploring options to upgrade its on-board Wi-Fi service in the Northeast Corridor (NEC), with a particular interest in constructing a dedicated, wireless trackside network that provides a high-capacity, broadband-speed Internet connection between Washington and Boston. The service closes existing coverage gaps along the NEC and allows Amtrak to drop current restrictions on streaming media and large file downloads.

“We know that our customers want a consistently reliable and fast on-board Wi-Fi experience – something we cannot guarantee today on our busiest trains when hundreds of customers want to go online at the same time – and we want to make that possible,” said Amtrak Chief Marketing and Sales Officer, Matt Hardison.

Amtrak is now soliciting bids for a proof-of-concept project, with a goal to increase available bandwidth per train from 10Mbps to a minimum of 25 Mbps (and scalable to even faster speeds as technology advances)—to meet growing customer data-usage demands. Results of the test project will be used to determine whether it is technically and financially feasible to construct such a network along the entire 457-mile NEC.

Voxer
Voxer appointed Irv Remedios, former head of product at Voxer, as its new president. He will focus on the go-to-market strategy of the voice messaging service going forward, especially as it increases its market share in the enterprise communications industry.

“Having led product strategy for Voxer over the last year with a focus on integrating customer needs into our product offerings, Irv is well-qualified to lead our overall strategy and drive our presence in the enterprise communications space,” said Tom Katis, CEO and founder, Voxer.

Prior to Voxer, Remedios served as vice president, product at Mr. Number; he was vice president, product and founding team member at Mozes, Inc.; and while at Adobe Systems, he launched the first successful online community for designers, called Kuler. 

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