Here’s why new competitors can’t do what Hotel Tonight does

HotelTonight, the app for booking a hotel stay on the go, has introduced new personalized price cuts, one called a “bonus rate” and the other called a “rate drop.”

Bonus rate: left; Rate drop: right

Rate drop: left; Bonus rate: right

The apps will analyze your phone’s location and offer you added discounts for hotels in specific other cities, a deal it’s calling a “bonus rate.”

For example, if you’re in San Francisco you may see that a same-day $145 room at a Los Angeles hotel is now discounted to $85. But if you’re in Munich, you’ll only see the original HotelTonight price. HotelTonight is trying to tempt people who might not otherwise travel or stay in a hotel to change their minds. “Some people value price and flexibility over the certainty of where they’re staying,” CEO Sam Shank told me. “At some point I hit my price point.”

Conversely, the app is also introducing a price cut known as a “rate drop” that can only be seen by people in close proximity to a specific hotel. Once again, the idea is to tempt people that might not otherwise spend the night in a place to change their mind. “People who weren’t thinking of booking a hotel in advance. Perhaps the other option was to stay with a friend or get a train home,” Shank said.

The hotels don’t want to cannibalize their business by slashing their rates on their websites on a day to day basis. Then they’d lose money from people who might have booked at the full price anyways. But by using cell phone location coordinates, the hotels can target new customers through HotelTonight that they might not otherwise snag, without losing their brand loyalists who would pay full price. “It’s about growing the market,” Shank said.

As anyone who uses HotelTonight already knows, the app offers the cheapest possible prices for same day booking. Hotels actually have to bid the lowest fee for their type of accommodation in order to be featured in the app. The companies most willing to do that are those with a lot of empty rooms they need to fill up.

This is a feature that HotelTonight’s bigger competitors, companies like Expedia and Priceline, have been able to imitate once they saw it worked. With bigger brand awareness, it’s a worthy foe for the comparably scrappy startup.

But the latest bonus rate and rate drop features aren’t going to be quite as easy for the travel giants to rip off. For them to work, they require up-to-the-minute information on a person’s location, down to specific mileage. As a result, customers have to be accustomed to checking hotel rates and booking rooms from their phone, a concept that HotelTonight’s clientele is obviously on board with, but Expedia’s legacy user base, maybe not so much.

Apple introduces new budget iMac for education

Apple rolled out a new, budget-priced iMac early Monday morning, but it comes with a catch: You have to be an educational institution to get the deal. The $999 iMac also features slightly less impressive specs when compared to its consumer retail siblings.

Peixe Urbano brings daily deals to Brazil — and beyond

Groupon has shown just how popular daily deals sites can be in the United States — but Latin American daily deals site Peixe Urbano is proving that an appetite for bargains knows no borders. Since its March 2010 launch, Peixe Urbano has attracted 11 million users.

Refurbished Wi-Fi iPads Get a Discount from Apple

Looking for a last minute gift for someone really special? Apple has discounted its prices by between $20 and $50 on refurbished Wi-Fi model iPads as of Dec. 8. Originally, the discount was listed as a limited time offer, but that caveat’s been removed.

AT&T Premier: Save Some Money On Your iPhone Plan

If you’re a college student, hopefully you’re no stranger to some awesome discounts you can get on a Mac. But what if you had your eyes on a shiny new iPhone 4? Here’s a quick way to save some money on it too.

Head Back to School In Style With a Free iPod touch

While those who recently graduated may be missing their Apple discount, those who are going to be heading back to school this fall can take advantage of Apple’s standard college student discount with the added bonus of a free iPod touch.

Roku Slashes Price of HD-XR in Half for Black Friday

HD-XR with remote front

UPDATED: Roku has let us know that it’s offering a special Black Friday deal on its top-of-the-line streaming set-top box, cutting the price in half for the first 500 customers who purchase the device.

The high-end HD-XR, which supports 80211.n wireless networking and includes a USB port “for future use,” usually sells for $129.99. But Roku will offer it for $64.99  — plus free shipping — via the company’s Black Friday web site starting at 11:00 a.m. EST/8:00 a.m. PST.

The HD-XR was introduced just last month, one of two new set-tops that the company has released to broaden consumer interest for its line of broadband-connected set-top boxes. It enables consumers to stream video from Netflix (s NFLX) and Amazon’s (s AMZN) Video On Demand store on their HDTV sets, as well as adding live baseball from MLB.com. Roku has since also launched a Channel Store that includes 10 new video content partners, including Blip.tv, Facebook Photos, Flickr and Pandora — with more on the way.

For customers interested in buying the HD-XR on the cheap, the company sent the following instructions for taking advantage of its Black Friday promotion:

1. Go to http://blackfriday.roku.com starting at 11:00AM Eastern Standard Time (8:00AM Pacific Standard Time) Friday morning.

2. Follow the instructions and enter the code “hdxrsteal” at checkout. The code can be applied to one Roku HD-XR Player.

Update: Well, that was fast. Roku’s servers were overloaded by folks trying to cash in on its Black Friday deal, and a spokesperson says the company sold out of discounted HD-XRs in less than 20 minutes. Roku has been painfully coy about what its installed base is, but now we know that it’s sold at least 500 boxes.

Update #2: Apparently due to a large number of customers who placed orders but didn’t receive the discount in their confirmation emails, Roku issued the following statement via Twitter: “Roku will honor all HD-XR orders between 8 and 8:45 a.m. w/ 50% discount. All orders will be reviewed today and credit will be applied. #fb”

MacHeist 3 Bundle Announced

macheist

Today, MacHeist announced the contents of their latest application bundle, providing the opportunity to purchase software to the value of $558 for the bargain price of $39. A huge range of applications are included, ranging from eBay (s EBAY) companions to professional 3-D animation tools.

Over the past few months, various ‘missions’ have given regular readers the chance to gain additional discounts on the bundle and gather free licenses for various applications. The final bundle will be on sale for two weeks, with 25 percent of all money paid being donated to a charity of your choice. This analysis will take a brief look at each application on offer to see just how far your $39 can go. Read More about MacHeist 3 Bundle Announced