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eBay launches bar-code-scanning app for Half.com

Launched strategically in time for back-to-school textbook pricing, it's the first implementation of RedLaser, the bar code technology that eBay acquired earlier this summer.

Earlier this summer, eBay acquired a mobile app company called RedLaser, which performed price comparison and product search functions through photos that the user would snap of product bar codes. Now, the first eBay-created product of the RedLaser technology is here: an iPhone app for eBay's reselling site Half.com.

iPhone owners can use the free app, released in Apple's App Store Monday, to take a picture of a bar code on a product and then scan Half.com's inventory to find price points on new and used items there. Then they can actually buy them through the app and, if they choose to, share the details of their deals on Facebook or Twitter.

The launch is strategically timed for the back-to-school season: one of Half.com's big markets is textbook reselling (in fact, eBay says that they make up the majority of items sold from July through September). eBay currently has been very vocal about mobile commerce as a big growth area, and a fresh Half.com app for back-to-school may help the reselling service gear up for new competition from electronic textbooks and Netflix-like rental services that give students a wider range of options for obtaining course material.

eBay acquired Half.com in a $241 million stock deal in 2000, and while it mulled folding the site into its main auction marketplace, it ultimately kept it separate.