Booking.com focuses on last-minute lodging with new iPhone app

Here’s an app you might want to have handy the next time you go on a fly-by-night vacation: Booking.com launched an app on Thursday, Booking Now, which simplifies the process of finding a hotel at the last minute.

Booking Now isn’t replacing the existing Booking app for iPhones, but it could end up superseding it eventually. It’s an attractive modern mobile user interface over the existing Booking.com service with one catch. Because it’s a same-day booking app, you can only book a room for tonight or tomorrow. After your provide your email and a few accommodation preferences, like how much you’re willing to pay and whether you’d like Wi-Fi, you’re swiping left and right like Tinder to search your nearby lodging matches.

Booking.com is one of several travel companies, including OpenTable and Kayak, owned by U.S.-based Priceline. As one of the major legacy booking companies, its system tracks a lot of rooms — more than 580,000 properties, according to the company.

“You’ve got apps like Uber and Starbucks and OpenTable feeding this idea we can do anything on our phones,” Priceline.com CEO Darren Huston said. “We needed to make an app that’s not just a slimmed-down version of our core app, but meets the needs of the spontaneous consumer.”

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There isn’t anything that Booking Now does that the normal Booking.com app can’t — the main Booking.com app has offered a last-minute accommodation for years. Still — it’s a significantly better experience for short term booking on mobile to the current app, which presents you with several anxiety-inducing choices when you boot it up. Booking Now is better at finding a room on short notice — either where you are (by using your coordinates) or where you will be (the app is solid at handling general requests like “San Francisco” or “Amsterdam.”)

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Sometimes you miss a more fully-featured app. For instance, when looking for a hotel in New York, it suggested a room in Midtown, which was over 30 blocks away. There were closer hotels, which could be found by swiping left, but Booking Now didn’t offer them as the first choice because of price. You can’t see your options in the form of an organized table.

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Even though the app asks for your credit card number, it’s only used to confirm your reservation. When you get to the hotel, you pay for your lodging directly, instead of the credit card on your account automatically being charged. Users should also be aware that most hotels don’t accept cancellations within 24 hours of the reservation, and if you booked your room on the same day, that means you’re out of luck.

Last-minute booking apps on mobile have been hot lately. Mobile-first competitors like HotelTonight and Vayable offer quality, visually appealing same-day booking mobile apps, and they are using successes there as a foothold to expand further into other travel services. Sharing apps like Airbnb have their own last-minute booking services on mobile too It’s no wonder travel services giant Priceline is revamping its mobile apps in a big way. Booking Now is available on iOS now and Android phones soon.

Priceline acquires Kayak for $1.8 billion five months after IPO

Priceline announced Thursday that it has acquired Kayak at $40 a share, putting the travel search site at a $1.8 billion valuation. Kayak recently went public in July 2012 after delaying its IPO since 2010, waiting for the markets to improve.

Hotel booking app Blink scores $2.5m in funding

Spain’s Blink Booking offers last-minute hotel reservations, so it’s only appropriate that one of the several high-profile names in its funding round is that of Lastminute.com co-founder Brent Hoberman

How connectivity is revolutionizing everything

Blazing fast networks, cheap silicon, always-on devices and a torrent of data will fundamentally change everything — how we consume media, how we work, and even who we are. We examined 10 areas that show how connectivity is profoundly changing the present and future of technology.

Why a Sudden Surge in Tech M&A? Startups Pay Attention

Silicon Valley companies are on a shopping spree and if you’re a startup, that is really good news. Today alone blogs were filled with news of five deals that together were worth over $1.4 billion. What’s going on and why it is good news for startups?

How Priceline Got Its Mojo Working Again

priceline1Of all the dot-com superstars that appeared in the ’90s, shone brightly and then disappeared from sight, few have been granted a second act. One exception is Priceline (s pcln), which 11 years after it was founded — and 10 years after its stock price collapsed — is quietly thriving. It’s no superstar now, but it’s an interesting case study of how an online company once written off for dead can in fact age gracefully. Read More about How Priceline Got Its Mojo Working Again

VMware Fusion On Sale

Black Friday sale prices are coming a little early for those of you looking to buy VMware Fusion this month. Our readers report that VMware is sending out emails with a 25% off coupon.

Get 25% off automatically when you purchase VMware Fusion online, using the coupon code “FusionRocks” for a limited time only.

VMware Fusion has been my recommendation for some time because of the wide support for guest OS’s including OS X Server, but the new Parallels Desktop 4.0 release does a lot to close the gap. I imagine the coupon is motivated in part by the increased competition from Parallels 4.0 this month.
Our own Darrell Etherington wrote up a comparison of VMware Fusion 2.0 and Parallels 4.0 where he slightly preferred Fusion. Now it is even a better deal at 25% off.
The coupon expires at midnight (Pacific time) at Sunday, November 30.

Fare-Finder Shootout: Mobissimo Wins

plane_resized1.jpg There’s more than one way to find a good airfare online, as the Kayak-SideStep merger shows. But what’s the best way? Is there one site that you can rely on to find the best fare for all your travel needs? Or do you need to visit them all to ensure you don’t miss anything?

I set out to compare fare-finding services and booking engines, including Kayak, SideStep, Mobissimo, Farecast, Priceline, Expedia and Hotwire. To do so, I chose three itineraries: a business trip to San Francisco, a trip from the U.S. to South America, and a one-way trip from India to the UK.

The winner? Mobissimo. Read More about Fare-Finder Shootout: Mobissimo Wins

Kayak-SideStep Merge, Ride Ahead Is Rocky

In a surprise move, two vertical search sites, Kayak and SideStep decide to merge. The deal gives Kayak the heft, making it the fifth largest online travel destination. But that doesn’t mean it is immune from challenges posed by a slowing economy and its impact on the travel industry at large.