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Samsung buying mobile-payment firm

NEW YORK -- Samsung is buying mobile-payment startup LoopPay as the South Korean phone-maker steps up to challenge Apple and its payment system on iPhones.

The deal strengthens speculation that Samsung Electronics Co. plans to include mobile-payment technology in its next major phone, which is expected to be announced March 1 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

Launched a year ago, LoopPay works by reproducing the signals from a credit card's magnetic swipe as users tap a LoopPay device next to a retailer's card reader. That means LoopPay should work with most retailers' existing payment terminals.

Most other mobile-payment systems, including Apple Inc.'s Apple Pay, require newer terminals with wireless chips called near-field communication. That limits the number of retailers that can accept such payments.

But LoopPay has had trouble with some older readers; restaurants and bars often couldn't process LoopPay transactions because of a variety of hardware and software issues. It also doesn't work with transit fares, parking meters and other machines that require the customer to fully insert a card, like a bank ATM.

Plus, it's not clear what will happen when merchants hit an October deadline for accepting cards with stronger security known as EMV, as LoopPay offers only the basic magnetic signals. Near-field communication and Apple Pay equipment is newer and enabled for EMV. LoopPay is more of a retrofit -- for a system being phased out.

Nonetheless, Samsung sees enough potential to buy the company. LoopPay estimates that its system works with 90 percent of merchants. Although there are more than 200,000 payment terminals in the U.S. that can accept near-field communication, that's out of several million.

-- The Associated Press

Southwest, iPhone Passbook hook up

There was some good news last week for iPhone owners who fly Southwest Airlines: The carrier updated its smartphone app so customers can store mobile boarding passes in the iPhone Passbook, which aggregates tickets, loyalty cards and electronic coupons from compatible apps.

Southwest is last among large airlines to make its app compatible with Passbook.

"This is a feature our customers have asked for, since it further enhances our mobile offerings and leads to a more seamless airport and travel experience," Southwest spokesman Dan Landson said. "It's been well-received."

Customers can save mobile-boarding passes, introduced last year on Southwest, in Passbook when checking in through the Southwest Airlines mobile app. Boarding passes emailed or sent via text message can also be stored in Passbook, the airline said on its blog.

The change is available when the Southwest iPhone app is updated. The new version also contains bug fixes, according to the updates description.

Passbook, a home screen app, operates on Apple devices running iOS 6 or higher.

Apps of other major airlines, such as United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, are compatible with Passbook.

-- Chicago Tribune

NBC offers online streaming in 10 areas

NEW YORK -- Television viewers in 10 U.S. markets are now able to watch their local NBC stations live on computers and mobile devices -- as long as they are paying customers.

Although the stations are available for free with an antenna, NBC is limiting its free online streaming to cable and satellite TV subscribers. Viewers will need to sign in with their providers' account information, akin to an approach ABC has taken. CBS doesn't require a cable or satellite subscription, but it charges $6 a month for its CBS All Access service.

The 10 NBC markets cover New York, Los Angeles and other regions where NBC owns the local station. NBC affiliates, which carry NBC programs but are owned by others, are expected to be added throughout the year.

In requiring a pay-TV subscription, NBC is making it difficult for viewers to drop their cable or satellite service. A few channels, including HBO, Nickelodeon and Showtime, plan to make content available as stand-alone subscriptions. But most channels are taking the same approach as NBC in making viewers pay as part of a broader subscription package.

NBC viewers in the 10 markets will be able to watch by visiting their local station's website or downloading the station's app on Apple or Android devices. The sites and apps will also offer on-demand content, though local news will be available only live at first. Viewers won't be able to pause or rewind live streams, nor will they be able to watch on regular TVs through apps on streaming devices such as Roku.

NBC already live-streams major sports events such as the Olympics nationally online and on mobile apps for paying subscribers, and that's expected to continue.

-- The Associated Press

Yahoo makes play in mobile ad market

SAN FRANCISCO -- Yahoo is giving away a tool kit for managing mobile apps in a move aimed at reaping more revenue from smartphones and tablets as CEO Marissa Mayer scrambles to catch up to the Internet company's rivals.

The strategy will enable Yahoo Inc. to distribute ads in other mobile apps besides its own. Besides that, Yahoo also is trying to plant its search engine inside other apps so it can display ads alongside the results. Although the technology is free, Yahoo would keep 40 percent of all ad sales made in other apps.

Yahoo announced the expansion Thursday at its first conference for the makers of mobile applications.

Mayer described the extension of Yahoo's mobile platform as a "fork point" in her effort to make the Internet company an even bigger player on smartphones and tablets. "Yahoo really fell behind the times in the evolution of mobile," she told reporters and analysts Thursday. "I feel like we have really caught up now."

The company generated $768 million in mobile revenue last year. That amount lags far behind mobile ad leaders Google and Facebook, both of whom already run wide-reaching mobile ad networks that deliver promotions to other digital services besides their own.

Powered by its dominant search engine, Google Inc. held a 37 percent share of the U.S. mobile ad market at the end of last year with social networking leader Facebook Inc. at 18 percent, according to the research firm eMarketer Inc. Yahoo's share stood at 3 percent, a gap that mirrors the same problems that the company has faced competing against Google and Facebook for digital ad sales on personal computers for the past eight years.

-- The Associated Press

SundayMonday Business on 02/23/2015

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