Amazon closes out its mobile wallet trial after 6 months

It looks like Amazon’s diapers weren’t the only product the e-commerce giant retired Wednesday. The company has shut down its mobile wallet beta, which allowed Android and Fire phone users to store loyalty and gift cards in a digital billfold.

In a statement given to CNET, [company]Amazon[/company] spokesman Tom Cook said the e-commerce giant learned plenty from the six-month trial, and that it would apply those lessons to future Amazon products. But he didn’t say if Amazon had plans to bring its wallet back as a commercial product or if it would revisit the concept of smartphone payments in the future.

[company]Apple[/company] Pay has simultaneously reinvigorated the market for contactless and mobile payments while putting a lot of pressure on competing technologies. [company]Google[/company] Wallet has seen a big uptick in near-field communications (NFC) transactions, but it’s also been scaling back Google Wallet’s other features such as Digital Goods, which let you use its app to buy stuff outside of the Google Play store.

[company]Softcard[/company] — the carrier NFC payments system formerly know as Isis — just laid off 60 employees, and the latest rumors have it that Google and Softcard want to merge their wallet efforts. Meanwhile MCX, a smartphone billfold effort backed by the country’s biggest retailers, is fighting (and losing) a public relations war with Apple over its merchants’ resistance on accepting Apple Pay.

It might be tempting to view the closure of Amazon Wallet as the company conceding victory to competing smartphone payment technologies, but I think we would be reading too much into its actions. Amazon Wallet was never really an aggressive move into retail commerce like Apple Pay or Google Wallet. It never let you store credit cards or make a secure payment at the register. Instead, it was basically a way to store a bunch of loyalty and gift cards in a digital format, so merchants can scan in a bar code from your phone rather than a piece of plastic.

If Amazon is really going to go after the smartphone payments space, I imagine it would launch a much more fully featured wallet in the future. And if it doesn’t, Amazon got a lot of good data from beta that it could apply to its other mobile payments efforts, particularly the mobile point-of-sale credit card reader it just launched to compete with Square.

Tesco sells Blinkbox to TalkTalk and may offload Dunnhumby

The British supermarket giant Tesco is, to put it mildly, having financial difficulties. On Thursday it unveiled a range of measures that it hopes will help dig it out of its hole. These include the sale of Tesco Broadband and the associated Blinkbox media service to TalkTalk, and the potential sale of Tesco’s Dunnhumby big data outfit to … someone.

The sale of [company]Tesco[/company] Broadband, with its 75,000 broadband and 20,000 telephony customers, is fairly inconsequential. That of Blinkbox marks the end of a strategy that began in 2011, when Tesco bought a majority stake in the streaming service.

Observers have noted that Tesco failed to differentiate Blinkbox’s video-on-demand service from rivals such as Amazon and iTunes, then failed to pick up on the trend for video subscription models. TalkTalk, one of the U.K.’s largest ISPs, said on Thursday that it will integrate the service with its TalkTalk TV platform, and that the purchase will “help accelerate the development of our platform by delivering a number of key initiatives significantly faster, such as offering a TV app to customers for in and out of home access to paid-for content across a range of devices.”

Blinkbox’s video, ebook and music services (the latter of which was an attempt at the subscription model) collectively lost Tesco almost £25 million ($38 million) in 2013. The sale price wasn’t formally announced, but it was reportedly £5 million.

The potential Dunnhumby sale — Tesco has said only that it will “explore strategic options” for the division – is an interesting one. Dunnhumby is the “customer science” operation that manages Tesco’s very successful Clubcard loyalty card scheme, and these days it provides services to a range of clients including [company]Coca-Cola[/company], [company]Johnson & Johnson[/company], [company]General Mills[/company], [company]GlaxoSmithKline[/company] and [company]Macy’s[/company].

All in all, Dunnhumby now has “valuable insights” on the spending habits of around 770 million people around the world – a fact that raises interesting data protection questions in the event of a sale. It employs 3,000 people, and Dunnhumby acquisitions in recent years have included analytics outfit KSS Retail, social marketing firm BzzAgent and ad-tech company Sociomantic.

The current rumor is that rival outfit WPP is set to make a £2 billion bid for Dunnhumby. Given Tesco’s current difficulties, it’s easy to see how such an amount would come in handy.