Expedia To Roll Out New Hotel iPhone App Designed By Mobiata

4/5/11Follow @xconomy

Ben Kazez needs a place to live. Preferably a warehouse loft he can rent somewhere in Ann Arbor, MI. A quiet place where he can finally grab some ZZZZs.

You can forgive Kazez for neglecting his living situation. Since selling his startup Mobiata to online travel giant Expedia (Nasdaq:EXPE) last fall, Kazez has been hard at work developing Mobiata’s first product for his new employer—so much so that he still resides in a noisy building that deprives him of sleep.

There’s a lot riding on Expedia Hotel, a free phone app that will launch on Apple’s iPhone this month. For the first time, Expedia customers will be able to research and book hotel rooms directly through a native app designed for a smartphone. Normally, they must use the phone’s mobile browser to access Expedia.com.

Hotels are the largest source of revenue for Expedia, based in Bellevue, WA. In 2010, hotel revenue (mostly commissions from bookings made through the site) grew 11 percent to $507 million, or about 63 percent of Expedia’s overall business. The company said total revenue jumped 16 percent to $808.4 million, mostly driven by hotels.

Kazez, a boyish-looking 24-year-old computer science graduate of Carleton College, recently demonstrated Expedia Hotels to me over lunch in downtown Ann Arbor, not far from Mobiata’s office.

The first thing I noticed was the eye-popping, high-resolution photos of hotel rooms. That seemed to please Kazez, since photo quality was one of Expedia’s top priorities. The other was a streamlined process that allowed Kazez to quickly book and pay for a hotel room in four steps.

There were also a bunch of minor improvements to Expedia’s Web-based reservation process, seemingly unnoticable on their own. But add them all together and you get an enjoyable user experience, Kazez says.

Expedia Hotel is only the first step in the company’s Expedia Everywhere mobile device strategy as it rolls … Next Page »

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