Thursday, June 30, 2011
Gavin O'Malley, June 30, 2011, 11:30 AM
California Law Will Tax eCommerceLos Angeles Times

Until now, Amazon and other mostly digital businesses have had clear tax advantages over brick-and-mortar rivals. But with vast implications for the future of ecommerce, cash-strapped states are trying to level the playing field. 

On Friday, Los Angeles Times reports, "a new state law will require large out-of-state retailers like Amazon to collect sales taxes on purchases that their California customers make online." In response, Amazon and rival etailer plans to cease paying commissions to California Internet marketing affiliates for referrals of so-called click-through customers.

"That's because the new requirement applies only to online sellers based out of state that have some connection to California, such as workers, warehouses or offices here," the L.A. Times explains. The move has Web affiliates fuming. Respected tech watcher Danny Sullivan, for one, is hoping someone hits Amazon with a class action lawsuit "They probably won't win, but you deserve a little hassle, too," Sullivan wrote in an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Meanwhile, The Next Web suggests that Sullivan and all California residents should consider blaming the state's Governor Jerry Brown. "If the governor was attempting to call Amazon's bluff, it didn't work," it writes. "In grabbing for sales tax, the state has, it seems, eliminated a chunk of income tax."

Bigger picture, as BoingBoing notes, "The move follows similar shutdowns in other states, most recently Arkansas and Connecticut, where similar laws have been enacted." Yet, "California ... is by far the largest U.S. state and represents an enormous revenue source for Amazon and associates."

"States are scrambling for cash, so it's no surprise they see a pot of gold in e-commerce sales," writes ZDNet. "Brick and mortar sites - such as Wal-Mart - that have failed to grasp the opportunities Amazon created with programs (like Affiliates) are out for blood."

Read the whole story...
  • Gavin O'Malley, June 30, 2011, 11:30 AM
  • Mossberg: HP Flunks IPad Challenge To date, no tablet has come close to challenging Apple's iPad -- and Hewlett-Packard's new TouchPad won't change that fact, according to tech guru Walt Mossberg. No, despite the best efforts of the world's largest PC maker, its first tablet is "simply no match for the iPad," Mossberg writes. Among other "deficits," he scolds, the TouchPad "suffers from poor battery life [and] a paucity of apps." On the bright side, Mossberg professes to like the TouchPad's interface a lot.

    "Instead of a screen full of app icons, the main screen of the TouchPad's operating system, called webOS, presents running apps as 'cards' -- large, live rectangles that you scroll through in a horizontal row," he writes. Better yet, "In many ways the TouchPad is a joy to use." Alas, "at least for now, I can't recommend the TouchPad over the iPad 2."

    Industrywide, while countless multi-touch tablet computers have launched this year to take on Apple, its iPad still managed to sell 25 million units and attract 90,000 tablet-specific apps in just about 15 months. Read the whole story...
  • Facebook Comments Plug-In Hits 300K Across the Web, Facebook says some 300,000 sites have integrated its Comments Box plug-in since its debut in March. Considering that plug-in had only been integrated into 50,000 sites by mid-April, the announcement actually "indicates adoption has accelerated in the last few months," according to Insider Facebook. "This is a sign that the plugin has matured passed some initial concerns ... and is now a more viable comments solution with added distribution benefits."

    The social network has also announced two updates to its Comments Box plug-in for third-party sites. Users can now select to sort comment reels by reverse chronological order, as well as by chronological order and by Facebook's "social ranking" algorithm. This should help users following real-time events. Facebook also added a "Boost Comment" button, which allows moderators to select certain comments to push to the top of a reel. Read the whole story...
  • Yelp Deals Goes Mobile About a year after debuting its daily deal service, Yelp is now rolling out Yelp Deals to its iPhone and Android apps. "The next phase of growth for local deals will be mobile," writes TechCrunch, and this week's move shows that Yelp knows it. When users click on the new mobile service, they'll be presented with a list of nearby Yelp Deals for discounts at restaurants, spas, and other businesses. (These are in addition to Yelp Special Offers and Check-In Offers, which already appear on mobile, TechCrunch notes.)

    Users will then get a redemption code, which they can show merchants right on their mobile phones. Yelp now has deals in over a dozen metro areas, including San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Boston, and LA. Still operating in the shadow of Groupon, TechCrunch says Yelp has one big advantage over the daily deal king. "It's [sic] mobile apps are already very popular." Indeed, Yelp mobile apps are used by about 4.5 million people a month. Read the whole story...
  • Smartphones Now Lead Cellphone Purchases To the delight of mobile advertisers and branded app-makers everywhere, smartphones are fast making features phones obsolete. Indeed, according to new Nielsen data, 38% of domestic mobile consumers now own smartphones, while 55% of those who purchased a handset in the past three months reported buying a smartphone instead of a feature phone -- up from 34% just a year ago. Simply put, "Smartphones continue to grow in popularity," according to Nielsen.

    In particular, "Android continues to be the most popular smartphone operating system, with 38 percent of smartphone consumers owning Android devices." That said, while Android also leads among those who recently purchased a new smartphone, it's actually the Apple iPhone that has shown the most growth in recent months, Nielsen points out.

    Regardless of the operating system, publishers and advertisers are no doubt thrilled over the rapid rise of smartphones. That's because, unlike feature phones, smartphones can support the most advanced forms of digital advertising, as well as branded applications. Read the whole story...