Yandex bets on iPhone to get Russia paying for music

Moscow-based search engine Yandex (s yndx) is hoping to steal a march on international rivals with a new music subscription app for the iPhone (s aapl) — but it’s gambling that users will be ready to stump up cash for the service in a country where paid-for digital music is rare.
With major music services like Spotify and Rdio yet to launch in Russia, Yandex plans to announce the iOS app later on Wednesday, offering users the chance to tap into its Yandex Music service and pay for the right to stream direct to their handsets or iPods.
But while the subscription proposition is fairly common among international services, it’s not the norm everywhere — and that could prove tricky.
Most music services in Russia are free, including the web-based version of Yandex Music, which launched in 2009. In order to take that service mobile, however, the company is asking people to pay 199 roubles each month (around $6) for the right stream a library of music that currently holds more than 3 million tracks by 80,000 artists over the air to their phone.
There are subscription services available locally, including Zvooq.ru, which charges $5 a month for mobile and offline access — but, like Yandex, it still offers a free web player.
Yandex Logo, from handoutYandex, which owns around two-thirds of the Russian search market, is clearly hoping it can covert some of its 5 million monthly web listeners to go the mobile route. But even it can convince them, just 2 percent of Russians use iPhones and — perhaps more importantly — the Russian music market is relatively undeveloped, with total sales across all formats of less than $100 million for 2011.
Turning profit in a market that is heavily reliant on piracy is tough — but could prove a significant bonus for the first company to really crack the problem, as Zvooq’s founders told the Financial Times last year:

“Some people see piracy as a threat, but we see it as a ready market with tens of millions of people consuming music online. It’s an opportunity,” says Simon Dunlop, one half of the duo behind Zvooq.ru, the online music service (whose name reflects Russian zvuk “sound”).
“If you have an established pirate market, it forces you to be that much better because you are competing with the free stuff,” he says.

Still, most potential entrants are steering clear for now. While our map of the worldwide market shows that there are 13 digital music services available locally, most international players have stayed out. Only Deezer and YouTube (s goog) could really be considered global services: Spotify, for example, has no outpost in the region, despite taking a large slice of funding from the Moscow investment group Digital Sky Technologies.

Going loco: Everplaces and Circleme hit public beta

Is there any way to stand out among the glut of social, local, mobile services? Everplaces and Circleme, two new European startups just coming out of private beta, certainly hope so — and both are attempting to put their own twist on the combination of people and places.

iZettle, Europe’s answer to Square, is out of beta

izettle promoStockholm-based iZettle — a company that is building a payments system not entirely unlike the much-heralded Square — is taking a big step forwards today by coming out of beta.
The system, which consists of a plug-in device and app, goes live today, with approval from Visa, MasterCard and Europay, and focus on helping small merchants and individuals — many who don’t currently take card payments.
The full commercial launch only covers Sweden right now, but now it’s officially up and running after a trial period that started in August, it’s ready to grow quickly. The company recently took $11 million of funding to help exactly that expansion.
According to MasterCard’s Matt Taraldsson, the card provider will be helping it roll out across the continent soon.

“Since its launch in Sweden in August iZettle has proven to be a big success, and has clearly shown that small businesses and individuals appreciate the convenience and security of taking card payments anytime, anywhere. We are proud that iZettle continues to build on MasterCard’s expertise – and as they now initiate their commercial launch across Europe we think it’s great news that millions of merchants for the first time will be able to take card payments”

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There’s clearly an opportunity here, and Square has been making a lot of noise — not least because of CEO Jack Dorsey’s zen-like appearance at GigaOM’s RoadMap conference last week.
But no doubt skeptics will no doubt look on iZettle as little more than a clone of Square: yet another example of a European company copying an American rival in order to corner the market first. Pricing, for example, fits the bill: just like Square, iZettle takes a 2.75 percent cut of each transaction for processing. But iZettle also takes a fee of €0.16 (22 US cents) per transaction on top, making it slightly more expensive to use.
The clone argument is a little unfair to iZettle, however, since it has had to build an entirely different technology for processing payments. Its gadget is slightly larger than Square’s box, and it’s one which plugs into the bottom of an iPhone, rather than the headphone jack at the top. This isn’t just a matter of looking different for the sake of it, however: it’s practical.
The simple magnetic swipe system used by most American cards (and therefore by Square) is pretty antiquated to Europeans, who largely used chip-based PIN entry to verify their purchases.
That means payment devices need to have a card inserted into them, rather than using a quick swipe-and-sign approach. It also means, theoretically, that the services are more secure by design: something that could be useful as iZettle looks to expand into new territories.
The bigger point is that both companies are working to change the payments industry, one of the largest markets around, and one of the least dynamic. Yes, there are plenty of similarities between the two — but there’s more than enough room for several players right now.

VYou rolls out iPhone app, adds status updates

New York City-based Q&A site VYou has gone mobile, enabling users to respond to messages from wherever they are with an iPhone app. It has also added status updates to its communication options, which could put it in closer competition with mobile messaging services like Tout.

TaskRabbit comes to the iPhone. It is multitasker heaven

TaskRabbit, the online marketplace that allows people to outsource errands and other jobs, has debuted its first iPhone app. The whole point of using TaskRabbit is to save precious time, so the iOS app is great — it allows people to get things done on the go.

Up and away! Trover travel app now in wide release

Trover, the travel app aimed at sharing off-the-beaten-path discoveries, has formally launched out of limited beta. The app, which was initially available only on iPhone through Facebook Connect, is now also open as a web app on Trover.com and accessible to anyone with an email account.

Riese Back Soon on SyFy, Plus Felicia Day iPhone Game

The steampunk web series Riese, which will be relaunched on SyFy.com within the next month, is getting even more cross-platform than before, thanks to a iPhone/iPod Touch game to feature narration by Felicia Day, a potential series of novels, and just maybe a TV adaptation.