Summary:

Zong has been a major player in mobile payments, best known for allowing people to bill Facebook Credits purchases to their phone. But the provider sees a bigger audience in payments and is expanding support to Flash, Unity, the mobile web and to interactive TV platforms.

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Zong has been a major player in mobile payments, best known for allowing people to bill Facebook Credits purchases to their phone. But the provider sees a bigger audience in payments and is expanding support to Flash, Unity, gaming consoles, the mobile web and to interactive TV platforms.

That means developers will be able to include payments in many more applications, giving them another way to make money through in-app purchases. Zong has already enabled this on Android and HTML, but the expansion positions its well for other mobile, web and TV platforms. Developers just need to get a user’s mobile phone number and then they send them a text message confirming a purchase, which is billed to their mobile phone.

Zong has found success helping developers sell virtual goods. But over time, it sees mobile payments handling a lot more transactions, including, eventually, physical items. Gaming consoles make a lot of sense because developers are already selling virtual items in-game. By expanding to Flash, it enables a community of some 3 million developers to include more payment options. Unity is one of the top mobile game development platforms, known for providing developer tools for building 3-D games. And by expanding to interactive TV, Zong hopes it can be a payment option as TV apps emerge.

“Mobile payments are gaining traction on all platforms and devices because the convenience is unrivaled,” said Zong CEO David Marcus.  “Zong’s new platform enables merchants and developers to integrate mobile payment in virtually any environment, be it on a PC, a mobile phone, a tablet or a television.”

Zong also announced that its one-touch payment system for Android is now ready for Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets. As we’ve talked about, mobile payments through carrier billing is emerging as a viable option for many digital purchases. It offers a quick way to pay for items using an existing phone account, which is convenient for consumers. The problem has been higher fees associated with mobile payments, which have traditionally been through premium SMS. But as Zong and others enable more direct carrier billing, the fees are dropping below 20 percent, opening up the potential for transactions of more products.

It makes sense for Zong to expand and equip more developers with the tools for mobile payments. It will work more for digital goods right now because of the higher fees, compared to credit cards. But those fees will likely come down even more, opening the potential for more sales. But what opposition might Zong face from platform owners, who are increasingly looking to own the purchase process because they can take a cut of the transaction? That could be one thing that slows down mobile payment providers if it becomes tough or impossible to keep offering payments on some platforms.

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