Well, it might mean "selling you crap through your phone's or other mobile device's web browser", as opposed to, say, "selling you crap through your laptop's web browser". That's what I'm going to call "mobile commerce".
I suppose it might also mean, paying for something using your phone. I'll call that "Near Field Communication" or possibly "carrier billing", depending on what is meant by that.
Sometimes, people include things like subscription news services, or e-books, or e-music, or mobile banking, or whatever. After all, you're paying for it, in one way or another.
I'm going to start in on recent coverage of mobile commerce, because I've hit two stupefyingly silly articles in a row, on a topic that might be loosely considered, "Hey, I need an investment idea focused on m-commerce. Who should I buy?"
"Groupon CEO Andrew Mason ... [claimed Groupon] has the largest percentage of transactions occurring on mobile devices of any major e-commerce company — at least that they know about."
That's the only instance of the word "largest" in the article. I hope Tricia Duryee can push the blame for the headline on someone else, because it is a wildly provocative summary of a wildly provocative assertion, neither of which are adequately supported. I figure if someone only sold one thing and that one thing was sold via mobile phone, they'd have 100% mobile commerce sales, and _that_ would thus make them the "largest mobile commerce company". Sure it would.
The balance of the article is about the idea of "instant offers" (your phone notices you are near a TJ Maxx and generates a coupon good for 30% off of one item, just for you, if you walk in now, or you notice you are near a TJ Maxx and ask if they have an offer for you), and Groupon's woes, and there's even a paragraph that's a near miss at discussing NFC (har de har har).
The mockability here is mostly at the headline, which I suspect is not the author's fault.
Meanwhile, over at Forbes, Eric Jackson has written another in what is probably a page-view generating series of highly provocative predictions. The last one was about the DOOOOOM facing "Web 1.0" companies and specifically predicting the imminent (5-8 years) demise of FB and Google. This one is about how Someone Else is going to Eat Amazon's Cake, because apparently Amazon's phone and tablet apps are "really bad. Spartan in a bad way, the apps are overly utilitarian." A complaint, I might note, which has never stopped being made about any of Amazon's storefronts, but never mind that now. I want the juicy bit.
Okay, so who does Jackson have in mind? Here are some possibilities he enumerates:
"Pinterest is probably the most interesting company out there today for me when I think of mobile commerce."
"Etsy is also an interesting community of hand-crafted goods with a feeling of community. It’s still pretty nichey today, but it has a chance to be the dominant “craft fair” of the future."
I kind of love the idea that there is someone out there who can suggest that Amazon will be less of a force in mobile commerce than Etsy. I mean, cool. In a handblown glass vulva goddess necklace sort of way.
Other candidates: eBay, Flickr (say, when we all start paying for the photographs we use in our blogs) or Instagram.
I think Jackson realizes these are kind of weak competitors for Amazon, so he hypothesizes the new mobile commerce giant has yet to be born, and won't have a website at all. Further, "when this yet unknown mobile commerce app can start to integrate with something like Apple TV (and iAd) in real-time. Or when your personal assistant, Siri or whatever Google chooses to run in competition, can truly start to intrude in your life and suggest things to buy that they know you will just adore. And rather than hating the intrusion, you’ll welcome it."
So, if I understand this correctly, the new mobile commerce app will involve ... your TV? I'm confused. Because the actual competition here is QVC? Wait, maybe he's subtly suggesting that QVC will be the next big name in mobile commerce? Also, the idea that a digital assistant like Siri might start selling me crap unsolicited sounds more like the basis for a humorous horror short than a serious mobile commerce contender.
I sometimes feel compelled to point out to people that if you are going to sell something, you do actually sort of have to deliver it, even if it is just bits off a server. Etsy is just people putting up pictures and descriptions and sharing payment systems -- and then doing fulfillment out of their bricks and mortar storefront, aka, their living room, a spare closet, the extra bedroom, whatever. It's not clear to me that Pinterest or Instagram have any payment system set up for anything. Flickr has a payments system and sells some stuff. Other than people selling train t-shirts and goddess necklaces and magic wands (hey, I've bought some of this stuff -- it's cool!) and doing a lot of hand processing over at Etsy, I'm not convinced that any of Jackson's examples actually move physical product or much in the way of paid-for digital product.
But it's hardly worth bothering here. I mean, Pinterest? Mobile commerce? For realz?
For non-mockable coverage of trends in mobile commerce, try this:
ETA: To give you a sense of "state of the art" in mobile commerce, here's a prototype demo (a demo of a prototype, not a demo of a product -- and boy is that an important distinction).
Your call whether that's cute or mockable -- it's definitely not competition for Amazon's mobile app, which let's you actually buy stuff (I have), at least not yet. I kinda liked the kids and the slice of fake pizza and at least the vid is short. I picked it up from http://tnerd.com/2012/08/11/heres-the-first-demonstration-of-how-you-can-use-ios-6-passbook-app-in-the-real-world-video/, but there are a ton of other blogs out there covering it, too.