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Commentary » PYMNTS Voice
I don’t know about you, but 2012 so far has left me a little breathless given the fast pace at which the payments industry has been moving since we all emerged from the New Year’s break. Maybe it’s the mild winter. No matter, the catalyst, not surprisingly, is mobile and the IP-enablement of just about everything that touches or influences commerce. This last week was particularly interesting given a few announcements from very different corners of the payments ecosystem about their payments strategy, not surprisingly, keyed to what they will pursue (or won’t) along the mobile lines. Here’s my take on last week’s mobile movers, shakers, and shockers.
- Ask the Industry: Will Google Wallet ignite mobile payments? Share your thoughts here.
Finovate hosted their spring event this week at the San Francisco Design Center, bringing together the latest and greatest innovators for payments and financial service technologies in a massive exhibition hall in the city by the bay. The San Francisco Bay Area has been a global leader in business model and technology innovation, giving birth to such household names as Apple, Google, eBay, Hewlett-Packard, Intel... the list of global technology leaders born and bred in Northern California goes on and on.
Google has signaled that it will do two things no one else in the payments ecosystem has done or even talked about: make a business case for merchants and consumers around NFC and maybe even put some real money behind it.
Google has obviously made a decision that NFC is an opening into something more interesting and lucrative than transforming a phone into a payment card– advertising and marketing opportunities at the point of sale – the physical point of sale. And, it has done a deal with VeriFone that takes the economic sting away from the merchants who need to buy into their vision to make it work – and who have by and large turned their noses up at NFC up to this point. Layer on top of that their Google Checkout asset and their newly launched One-Pass wallet application and you have the makings of an interesting new payments player. What’s more, Google is building this capability on top of its core assets – online advertising, eyeballs and now its hockey-sticking market share of Android operating systems. The result is the potential to position itself as not just a payments player, but one that has can blend on and off-line transacting in a new, interesting and potentially big way using the mobile phone as a conduit to the physical and online commerce worlds.
What’s amazing is that Google was the first to connect all of these dots. No doubt those loyal readers of PYMNTS.com have read more than a few of my skeptical musings over attempts to use NFC merely as a way to turn phones into cards. That ship had not only sailed but it hit a huge sandbar when terminal subsidies to merchants dried up and no one tapped at the point of sale even though there were millions of cards in circulation. There was just nothing in the way of a value proposition around NFC as a mag stripe replacement. Yet for years the traditional players continued to invest in and follow a traditional path around NFC deployment which marginalized its potential as enabler of commerce, not just transactions.
Google has both the money and the motivation to drive success. They also have two more things: lots of money and lots of data. Google is an advertising platform and is sitting on treasure troves of data that it successfully monetizes today on their platform. It has a built an engine that can be used to drive offers, targeted offers, and a business model that does not need transaction revenue to pay the bills. It’s why Google might be very happy to fund merchant terminal deployment that traditional card networks can “free ride” – their payday is much richer and much less dependent on marginal transaction costs. Google could really knit together an interesting business model that in and of itself could be disruptive and a customer base and offers platform that could outmaneuver its once-upon-a-time love interest, Groupon.
All I can say is that it took Google to finally make NFC worth paying attention to, for everyone.
The payments landscape is constantly changing with new technology and applications regularly emerging trumpeted as the latest and greatest "Alternative Payment" system. With all of this change it might be helpful if we define "Alternative Payment." Perhaps the challenge is to define "Traditional Payment" and say that everything else is Alternative Payment, but somehow that does not satisfy the question.
When we speak of “payments in the cloud” we are using the term in a broader sense than it is usually used in the information technology world.
The invisible engine model followed by Apple's iPhone has helped power the information technology industry for about three decades. Apple itself was one of the pioneers in encouraging developers to write applications for its desktop operating system. It invented the "software evangelist." Microsoft, though, was the maestro catalyst. Its Windows software platform attracted thousands of software developers and hundreds of millions of users. As a result it has been the durable center of a vast desktop-computer based ecosystem since at least the launch of Windows 3.0 in 1990. Invisible Engines tells the story of how software platforms have transformed industries including computers, video games, and handheld devices and then accelerated innovation. It then examines the forces behind the various business models that have been adopted in these industries. Many software platforms have decided not to charge developers while others have. Some have decided to vertically integrate into hardware while others have remained pure platforms.
The use of software platforms to drive innovation and transform industries has exploded since the 2006 publication of my book Invisible Engines with MIT Professor and former Sloan School Dean Richard Schmalensee and Harvard Business School Professor Andrei Hagiu. Around the globe, invisible engines are ushering in a new era of technological change based on software. The Apple iPhone has shaken the mobile phone industry worldwide in part by creating a massive applications business built on the phone's operating system. Firefox has revolutionized the browser industry by encouraging developers to write add-ons and in doing so toppled Microsoft's Internet Explorer from dominance in many countries. Facebook has created a powerful social networking platform by opening itself up to developers. Amazon has started cloud-computing platform that enables entrepreneurs to access its vast software code, hardware and global communication systems over the Internet.
The application wars in the mobile phone business are heating up. They will result in significant threats and opportunities for the payments biz.
2012 ach acquisition ad-supported advertising africa akerlof alternative payment alternative payments amazon amazon fps american express amex android api apis apple application applications at&t atm authentication automated clearing house b2b b2bsynergy banking bank of america barclays behavioral economics big bank excuse billmelater bing blackberry bling nation bloomberg bob dole braintree brian burnseed business business week business wire c$ cmoney capgemini capital markets summit card act cardholders card issuer card issuers card issuing card network card networks card reform cards carte blanche cartes & identification 2010 cash cass sunstein catalyst code catalysts cfpa cfpa act chase check card checks chicken-and-egg china china union pay cloud computing code commerce compliance congress consolidation consumer consumer financial protection agency consumer financial protection board consumer loyalty consumer payments research center consumers contactless contactless cards contactless payments corduro credit credit card credit card networks credit cards ctia cup cybersource dan ariely daniel read data center david evans david s. evans debit debit card debit cards decoupled developer developers development device fidelity dick schmalensee digital media diners club discover disruptive disruptive technology dodd droid durbin durbin amendment e-commerce e-payment e-wallets ebay ebillme ecommerce economics economists economy eft electronic commerce electronic payments element payment services elizabeth warren encryption epayment epayments evans facebok facebook facebook commerce farmville federal reserve fees financial financial reform finovate firefox foreign networks frank frank parry futures g-cash gaming gao general accountability office gift google google checkout google wallet gopayment greatest developments groupon guest payments hagiu healthcare holiday hyperbolic discounting ibm icbc ignition ignition series ignition strategy innovation interchange international telecommunications union internet internet-based intuit invisible engines ip commerce ipcommerce iphone iphones ipo isis issuer jack dorsey jason diaz jcb international jibun bank john donohue joshua wright journal jp morgan justin fox karen webster kathy miller kenya law lending linkedin loyalty m-commerce m-pesa magnetic strip mag stripe magtek making credit safer manhattan mara airolki margaret weichert market platform dynamics mastercard mcommerce merchant merchants merger meters microsoft mit mobile mobile apps mobile banking mobile money mobile payments mobile wallet money transfer more than money mtn myspace national payment card near field communications network networks new businesses new business models newspaper publishing newspapers new york city new york times nfc nilson non-cash obama obopay oliver williamson online banking open platforms other p2p paas patrick gauthier payment payment card payment cards payment engine payment networks payments payments innovation paypal paypal here paypalx paypal x payroll paysimple payvment payware pci pci ssc peter guidi philippines pin platform platforms policy pos prepaid processing psychology pts publishing pymnts quattro reform regulation related publications retail revolution money richard thaler roam data ronald coase saas safaricom schiller schmalensee screening rules sdk search security senator durbin serve shane frederick shopping small business smart-phones smartphone smartphones social social commerce social network social networks software square standards start-up startup startup strategy strategy survey of consumer payment choice swipe fee target taxi taxipass taztag techcrunch technology the payments authority tim attinger traffic transaction costs transactions tsys twitter two-sided market two-sided platforms u.s. bank u.s. chamber of commerce user behavior validation verifone verizon virtual currency visa vivotech vodafone wall street wamu warren buffett washinton web 2.0 wells fargo western union windows wright wsj yahoo yes bank youtube zoompass zynga