Google challenges Groupon
Rancho Palos Verdes - Google on Wednesday will begin testing an Offers service that delivers local bargains to smartphone "wallets" in a challenge to online bargain hotspot Groupon.
Google Offers, working in conjunction with a "Wallet" mobile payment platform for Android smartphones, will begin testing in the Oregon city of Portland and eventually expand to New York City and the San Francisco area.
"There is no intent to favour one [smartphone] platform," Google executive chair Eric Schmidt said while introducing Offers at an All Things Digital conference at a resort in the southern California town of Rancho Palos Verdes.
"This is a big opportunity," he added, as Stephanie Telenius and another Google executive demonstrated Offers on stage. "We make our money through advertising and the Offers."
The service takes advantage of near-field-communication (NFC) chips to consummate discounts available to people who sign up using Gmail accounts.
"Tap, pay and save," Telenius said. "This is new; there is no one doing this exact thing. We are integrating at the point of sale."
Offers comes as a direct challenge to Chicago-based Groupon, which offers subscribers online coupons for discounts on a broad range of consumer goods and services.
Groupon in April announced the appointment of former Google executive Margo Georgiadis, saying she would oversee global sales, marketing and operations. Georgiadis was previously Google's vice president in charge of global sales.
Google's move to build its own local coupon service comes as it ramps up its commerce platform to stay in tune with lifestyles increasingly centred on smart mobile gadgets such as smartphones and tablet computers.
Groupon, which claimed 50 million subscribers at the start of this year, had rejected a reported $5bn takeover offer from Google.
Google Offers meshes with a free application introduced last week that turns a smartphone into an electronic wallet and is designed to replace plastic credit cards.
Google Wallet is being field tested in New York and San Francisco and will be available this year.
It will initially work with Google's Nexus S 4G smartphone from Sprint, the third-largest US wireless provider, and will eventually be expanded to other phones equipped with NFC technology.
An NFC chip in a phone allows a user who has entered his or her credit card details to "tap-and-pay" for purchases at a checkout register equipped with the PayPass system from CitiMasterCard.