LINE hosted its LINE Conference Tokyo 2014 at Maihama Amphitheatre today where it unveiled a number of new business ventures with one core theme: “life.” In addition to revealing active user counts for the first time the company also announced new strategic business ventures it would be undertaking over the next year.
Business ventures such as LINE Pay (not to be confused with LINE Play). LINE Pay is a payment system that will let you pay for a variety of services using LINE on iPhone or Android (no announcements for other operating systems like Windows Phone yet).
Payments can be made via credit card only by linking credit cards, paying at convenience stores, or by adding money beforehand with an account from an associated bank (Mizuho Bank or Sumitomo Mitsui Bank). There’s a “share payment” feature that lets you split the payments between you and your friends. You can “Send Money” to a friend’s account similar to PayPal or Facebook’s recently leaked payment feature for Messenger. You can also withdraw sent money using the “Withdrawal” feature.
LINE says it will have three security measures in place for LINE Pay
LINE says it will have three security measures will be set in place for the service: a separate password from LINE to act as a secondary verification, fingerprint verification via Apple Touch ID (iPhone only) required to view the password, and compulsory smartphone verification to use the PC site.
LINE Pay is planned for a Winter, 2014 release and will be available first for LINE and “related web services and apps,” and LINE plans to expand the service into its “offline shops and other venues” at some point in the future.
Then there’s LINE TAXI, a service that will be offered in collaboration with Nihon Kotsu Co., Ltd.
Similar to what users have experienced with WeChat’s partnership with EasyTaxi in Singapore, you’ll be able to call a taxi anytime or anywhere by using the LINE TAXI official account from within the LINE app.
Taxis will be dispatched to a certain location based on GPS info or building info and payment can be made through LINE Pay. The Tokyo-only version is planned for initial release this winter, with almost 3,300 of Nihon Kotsu’s taxis available through the service.
LINE plans to expand the service all across Japan in the future with 22,000 available taxis from 123 taxi operators associated with Nihon Kotsu through the “National Taxi Dispatch” app. The service eventually hopes to expand its business model worldwide through partnerships with taxi companies around the globe.
Another venture, LINE WOW is a food delivery service provided by LINE Bros., a company founded as a joint investment with the Woowa Brothers Corp., which is responsible for the development of Korea’s largest food delivery app “Baedal Minjok.” The service will open with a soft launch this fall, offering deliveries only in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, with a gradual expansion of shops, menus, area, and delivery times. Future plans aim to use the delivery infrastructure built up through food delivery to expand into a variety of services and products.
The LINE@ ID is an account that’s separate from the main LINE account that seeks to allow “private communication between family members, friends, and classmates.” Both corporate and individual users can create an account, and multiple accounts can be held at once. The LINE@ app will be exclusive to Android and iOS and will allow you to send messages to all of your followers at once, using 1-to-1 chats, posting to your Home and Timeline, and more. This service will be available this year starting in Japan with a plan to expand worldwide.
Other services include:
- LINE Maps for Indoor – a map application that specializes in navigating through commercial buildings such as shopping centers and department stores. Launching in autumn 2014 for Android only with support for “almost 40 locations in the Tokyo area” as well as Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), English, Japanese, and Korean language support.
- LINE Business Connect – offers LINE’s messaging feature through a company-oriented API, and allows each company to use their CRM base with LINE.
- LINE MUSIC – a subscription-based music streaming service that will be run by LINE MUSIC Inc. (name tentative), a company established through the triple investment of avex digital Inc., Sony Music Entertainment, Inc., and LINE Corporation. The basic details of the establishment have already been agreed to. Planned for release this year, the three companies are currently in detailed negotiations concerning the establishment of LINE MUSIC Inc.
- LINE Official Blogs – a blog service that will open the doors for artists and other celebrities to participate. By creating a LINE Official Blog, they will have access to all the capabilities and options to share information of a traditional blogging service in addition to the option to link the blog to LINE’s wide array of communication services, such as LINE official accounts, LINE Mall, and LINE PLAY. Coming November 4.
- LINE paid official accounts offer an avenue for artists and other celebrities to give exclusive information to subscribers of their official accounts. Compared to the existing official accounts, which allow the sending of information to a wide variety of users through LINE, paid official accounts allow celebrities to target their core audience and provide detailed information in much the same way as a fan club would. LINE Pay is planned to be used as the payment method for this new service.
With these new ventures, as well as its additional planned expansion of its social gaming platform (more on that later), it’s clear that LINE is planning on going it alone without seeking funding from an outside firm like many messaging apps have.
What do you think of LINE’s new business ventures?