Google has rolled out a new service that connects people with experts over live interactive video for free or paid advice, while adding a revenue stream for the company in the form of transaction fees from providers.
People can choose help from others, instant or scheduled, on the new Helpout service based on their qualifications, availability, price, ratings and reviews.
They can use a computer or a mobile device, provided they have a Google+ account, built-in or external webcam and microphone. Google has alsolaunched an Android app for Helpouts.
“We want to use the convenience and efficiency of the web to enable everyone, no matter where they are or what time it is, to easily connect with someone who can help,” Udi Manber, Google’s vice president of engineering, said in a blog posting.
All payments for charged services are done through Google Wallet, which would require customers to set up an account before a paid Helpouts session. Google is offering a full money-back guarantee if the experience doesn’t meet the user’s expectations.
Manber hopes that Helpouts will let people get and provide help in a variety of areas ranging from a computer glitch, a leaky pipe, to a homework problem.
Helpouts charges providers a flat 20 percent transaction fee on all paid, non-health Helpouts, which Google says will meet credit card fees, the cost of offering the money-back guarantee, advertising and promotion, and the cost of running the Helpouts platform. The cost of the transaction fee is included in the amount paid by the customer.
There is no transaction fee currently for providing free Helpouts. Starting Jan. 1, paid health Helpouts will be also charged a transaction fee.
Providers set the pricing and have the option of pricing the service on a per minute or per Helpouts session, or give customers the payment option.
Google said it is starting small with a few categories like art and music, computers and electronics, cooking, education and careers, fashion and beauty, fitness and nutrition, health and home, and garden. Providers are screened by Google. Healthcare service providers have to be licensed health professionals, and will be screened by HireRight, a Google contractor. Current providers on Helpouts include perfume and cosmetics company Sephora, Home Depot’s handyman referral service Redbeacon and physical fitness firm Weight Watchers.
Helpouts may not be suitable for every occasion and the number of people giving help on Helpouts and the type of help available will grow over time, Manber said.
Dubbed Paypal Here, the pocket-sized handheld device that Paypal calls a “game changer for small businesses” will launch sometime this summer. Paypal hasn’t announced how much it will cost yet, but it did say that it understands “the device will be under $100 to buy”.
Paypal claims that following a good reception in the US its new Paypal Here service will benefit businesses in the UK by “saving them the hassle of taking cash and cheques to the bank” and helping them “make the most of connected commerce”. However, in what is perhaps a downside for customers, Paypal said that the device will take a transaction fee of “less than [three] percent” from customers that use it.
“Paypal Here is a complete payment solution that allows any business to simply and securely accept Paypal, credit and debit card payments, log cash and cheques, even send invoices and receipts so they never miss a sale,” Paypal said.
“There’s no contract or on-going fees, just the initial competitive purchase price and a small fee for each transaction.”
Paypal Here will be available to select UK businesses over the coming months before it fully launches in the UK this summer. The chip and PIN version will be available in other relevant markets after the UK launch.
But with many users experiencing issues with Paypal in January, where a payments glitch resulted in customers’ payments being taken multiple times but not paid, the loss of trust in the service as well as the transaction fee might be too great for Paypal Here to see real success.
Analyst firm Ovum seems to think that the UK is “the logical place to start” the Paypal Here service, since it is Paypal’s second biggest market outside the US.
“Paypal has taken pains over the Paypal chip and pin device, which was designed and built in the UK and over a year in the making,” Ovum principal analyst Eden Zoller said. “But it will come with a price tag and this will need to be competitive given [that] the solution is meant for small businesses.”
As Zoller makes clear, the market for payment services is becoming increasingly competitive and Paypal Here is not the first of its kind in Europe, where iZettle, Payleven and mPowa have already launched.
“But Paypal has an advantage in being an established, trusted payment provider with a high profile global brand,” he added. However, we’re not entirely sure that we agree.
PayPal took another step in its effort to move in to the physical retail world on Tuesday, announcing a partnership with ATM company NCR Corp that will get the payment service into restaurants and gas stations.
PayPal, the dominant online payment business owned by eBay Inc, said its mobile service will be integrated with NCR’s point-of-sale, or POS, technology to allow diners to pay for their meal at restaurants using a smartphone.
The companies also agreed to integrate PayPal mobile payment options into NCR’s Convenience-Go application for gas stations and convenience stores. This lets shoppers buy fuel, food, and pay for car washes with their smartphones.
PayPal is trying to expand from its online roots into the physical retailworld, which is a much bigger market. Getting the service accepted in categories such as restaurants, gas stations and convenience stores is important because shoppers visit and pay at such locations regularly.
PayPal is teaming up with providers of payment technology and services that are already installed in physical stores, helping it expand more quickly. NCR’s customer base includes 38 percent of the top 100 U.S. restaurant chains and 50 percent of the major retail chains.
On Monday, PayPal reported similar agreements with a chain of gas stations and a grocery store operator.
Certain ThinkPad notebooks built with a 3G module inside now have access to a new no-contract mobile broadband service offered by Lenovo that will provide on-demand access to the Internet, the company stated on Monday.
The pay-as-you-go service, Lenovo Mobile Access, is available in the U.S. and nine European countries, including the U.K., France and Germany.
In offering the service, Lenovo said in a statement the company wanted to offer users more flexible options to buy access to mobile broadband. For example, users can pay US$1.95 for 30 minutes of time, allowing access up to 30MB of data, or pay $8.95 for a full-day pass to access up to 200 MB of data.
Users can also choose to buy monthly plans with access to 2GB or 6GB of data. Pricing will vary depending on the country.
The Lenovo service is being provided by Macheen, a company that helps manufacturers of embedded devices to connect them to the Internet via mobile networks. Last year, Macheen and Dell launched NetReady, another no-contract mobile broadband service similar to Lenovo’s.
Macheen partners with telecommunication operators in the U.S. and Europe to provide access to 3G mobile broadband.
Lenovo Mobile Access is available on ThinkPad Classic and ThinkPad Edge laptops containing a 3G module, and users can sign up for the service online. The PC maker is also shipping Lenovo Mobile Access on new ThinkPad laptops built with 3G modules.
GfK found that PayPal was the brand most likely to be trusted with personal financial data by consumers in nine major markets around the world, in a survey whose results are due to be published some time this week.
Major credit card brands Visa and MasterCard were the next most likely global brands to be trusted, followed by technology juggernaut Apple, which already handles account data through the iTunes store, Nokia and Samsung.
Mobile carriers, who have been hoping to diversify their increasingly marginalized revenues through NFC, came far down the list.
“When we think of trust or security, we probably default to a brand that’s been around for a long time. In this case, people have put their trust in a very new company,” GfK analyst and report author Ryan Garner told Reuters.
“Whilst financial brands have built up high levels of trust, mobile-based brands such as Nokia and Apple, and relatively new financial brands like PayPal, have the potential to disrupt this seemingly comfortable position,” GfK said.
GfK carried out its online survey of 8,603 consumers in Britain, the United States, Germany, France, Spain, Brazil, China, Italy and South Korea — which it used as a benchmark because mobile payments have been used there for many years.