Loyalty Apps Get Real Results: Five to Watch

Apps that enable companies to reward customers with freebies or discounts for purchases or social-media sharing are relatively new, but already a hit with businesses. Some merchants claim that they offer better ROI than credit card loyalty programs or daily deal sites such as Groupon.

The most successful loyalty reward app will be the one that appeals most to both consumers and merchants, and the arms race is on to get there. Check out what these five services have to offer.

Perkville

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Kineto's Smart VoIP Goes Head To Head With Google Voice, Skype

About a year ago, Kineto announced a partnership with T-Mobile that brought Wi-Fi calling to the carrier's customers; the agreement meant that customers could use their home Internet connection to make calls. This took some pressure off of T-Mobile’s network, and in some cases, it improved call quality for the customers able to utilize the service.

Kineto Wireless has gone a step further now, announcing a new app: Smart VoIP. Smart VoIP works like Skype or Google Voice, allowing voice calls to occur over Wi-Fi networks or 3G/LTE. This frees you from bad reception constraints if you have Internet at home, or good data coverage but a lack of voice signal quality.

The app works on the three major mobile operating systems: Android, iOS, and Windows Phone 7, and it can connect via Wi-Fi, 3G, or LTE (you can tweak the settings to only work over Wi-Fi, which is useful for subscribers that travel overseas).

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Three Cool Ways You'll Benefit from SkyDrive in Windows 8

Though Dropbox is more popular with over 45 million users, with 17 million users, Microsoft’s SkyDrive is a strong competitor. SkyDrive’s most desired feature has been 25GB of free space, much larger than that of most rivals. On Monday, Microsoft revealed its desire to be the "world’s hard drive", integrating SkyDrive with Windows 8 to make it easier to access your data from any device.

Though SkyDrive has been available for over four years, it hasn’t gain mainstream acceptance. Despite its large amount of free storage and capability to share files and collaborate with your friends and colleagues, main reasons include its lack of a desktop client and any Windows integration to access that storage easily. It appears that Microsoft has taken note of SkyDrive’s shortcomings; its Building Windows 8 blog details three ways SkyDrive will be used in Windows 8.

SkyDrive fes will look like tiles in the Metro interface.
1. Metro App on Windows 8

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Monitor Your Office from Your Smartphone or Tablet

Monitor Your Office from Your Smartphone or Tablet
If you have an office or a retail store, you may also have a security system that to alert you and the police in case of a break-in--or a webcam set up to monitor your business in your absence. But the capabilities of security systems go much further than they did even a few years ago, letting you monitor your business from a smartphone or tablet.

Here's a quick look at some of the highest-rated apps by customers for surveillance in the Apple App Store and the Android Market, as well as an offering from ADT, one of America's largest commercial security companies. Some cameras sold for surveillance purposes come with their own homegrown smartphone apps, such as those made by Swann.

Do-it-yourself types may prefer to set up a webcam or closed-circuit camera with an app on their Android or Apple tablets and smartphones. If you can't be bothered, consider tying in interactive services with a security company you're already paying.

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OS X Mountain Lion vs. Windows 8: Apple and Microsoft Mobilize

Mountain Lion vs. Windows 8: How Apple and Microsoft Are Mobilizing
With smartphones and tablets quickly gaining widespread adoption, even IBM is calling this a “post-PC era”. It’s a world of portability, apps, and touch-enabled devices. This is clear not only in the dominance of mobile devices and laptops on the hardware side, but in the way that Apple and Microsoft are merging their mobile and desktop operating systems.

Apple began incorporating iOS features into OSX with its Lion release in mid-2011, and will continue adding them with Mountain Lion, announced today and due by the end of the summer. Microsoft used its Windows Phone 7 for inspiration, and will release its Windows 8 beta for both desktops and tablets--rumored for the end of February--and possibly a phone based on Windows 8 later in the year. The two approaches appear to yield similar results.

Here are seven ways both Mountain Lion and Windows 8 include features that were initially found on mobile devices:

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Five Ways Apple Should Make iCloud Business-Ready

Five Ways Apple Can Make iCloud Business-Ready
Apple announced an update Thursday to its OSX operating system, . Notable in the updated features is tighter integration with iCloud, its cloud-based file, apps, and settings syncing service. For businesses, this isn’t big news, since iCloud targets individual consumers, and has almost no business-friendly features. What can Apple do to change that?

Apple’s top competitors, Google and Microsoft, each have business versions of their cloud solutions. Microsoft’s SkyDrive, while limited, does provide document sharing, so co-workers can easily exchange Office documents. Google’s Apps for Business is much more robust, supporting a company's domain, syncing email and contacts to phones, and providing online document editing and sharing. Apple’s iCloud, in comparison, allows easy syncing of data among devices, but it offers no collaborative features and is linked to a personal Apple ID.

Apple has always been a niche brand in business, but its recent success with the iPhone and iPad, which are being widely adopted in businesses, is changing that. As Apple’s foot is in the door, can it establish a solid foothold in business, expanding beyond the consumer market? Here are five ways Apple could make iCloud more business friendly.

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Three Ways Windows 8 Will Boost Accessibility

Three Ways Windows 8 Will Boost Accessibility
Almost 50 million citizens have disabilities, and the likeliness of a disability rises with age. Meanwhile, nearly one-quarter of the workforce will be 55 or older by 2018. At the same time, mobile devices that are smaller than the typical desktop computer and require more dexterity to operate are becoming more common in business.

As Windows 8 straddles the desktop-mobile divide, it will include assistive technologies optimized for touch-enabled devices, and built to be easier for easier integration by developers.

Microsoft's Building Windows 8 blog on Tuesday said the new OS will include improvements to help users with physical disabilities, including vision, mobility, hearing and cognitive impairments. In the post, Jennifer Norberg, lead project manager of the Human Interaction Platform team, focused on the underlying assistive-technology changes to Windows 8, and specific changes to serve users with vision impairments.

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