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September 13 2012

Commerce Weekly: Apple excludes NFC, leaves payment pioneering to others

Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the commerce space this week.

So that’s that: No NFC for the iPhone 5

Leading up to yesterday’s Apple event, there was much rumor mongering over whether or not the iPhone 5 would include NFC technology. The rumors have now been resolved: Apple did not include NFC in the iPhone 5. All Things Digital’s Ina Fried talked with Apple’s Phil Schiller about the lacking technology:

“Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller said that Passbook alone does what most customers want and works without existing merchant payment systems. It’s not clear that NFC is the solution to any current problem, Schiller said. ‘Passbook does the kinds of things customers need today’.”

Schiller’s sentiments echoed those made by Square COO Keith Rabois last year, that NFC is “a technology in search of a value proposition.” Cotton Delo at AdAge reported on Apple’s decision to forego NFC and side step the mobile wallet arena and noted that it’s not likely to have any ill effects on the mobile shopping ecosystem, as there is plenty of competition in the space to advance mobile wallet technology.

All the same, advancement in technology doesn’t necessarily translate into ubiquitous adoption, and the decision not to include the technology could have ramifications beyond mobile payments. Ryan Kim at GigaOm argues that Apple’s “snub” was a big detriment for NFC, that including it on “the most popular phone” would have educated consumers and brought a level of validation the technology hasn’t yet experienced. Kim also highlights the bigger issue:

“NFC is much more than just payments and can facilitate personal media and information sharing, building access, marketing and easy Bluetooth pairing. Google, BlackBerry, Nokia and Samsung have all shown different ways in which NFC can be used. But without many common applications that can work between those devices, there’s fewer chances for people to really adopt the technology. With a new iPhone likely to be a best seller, there would have been a lot of ways for people to get acquainted with NFC-actions. Now, the promise of NFC will still struggle to be fulfilled for at least another year.”

X.commerce harnesses the technologies of eBay, PayPal and Magento to create the first end-to-end multi-channel commerce technology platform. Our vision is to enable merchants of every size, service providers and developers to thrive in a marketplace where in-store, online, mobile and social selling are all mission critical to business success. Learn more at x.com.

There may be light in the tunnel for NFC yet

NFC might have taken a hit this week on the smartphone front, but the technology may have found a problem to solve in an (arguably more) unlikely place: the desktop computer. Adrian Covert at Gizmodo reports that MasterCard and Intel announced a partnership at the Intel Developer Forum this week that will “give merchants and laptop makers the necessary technology they need to act as credit card terminals.”

What this means for online shoppers, Covert says, is no more entering credit card numbers or storing them online — “you just tap your card or phone to your computer and get on with your day.” What this means for NFC could be a helpful nudge toward becoming a mainstream technology. Covert writes, “… with more and more phones and PCs coming equipped with NFC, the technology will be there en masse (meaning merchants can spend time and money integrating the feature knowing more than 10 people will use it).”

The growing “fustercluck” of services could hold back mobile payments

Leena Rao at TechCrunch took a look this week at what she calls “fustercluck” in the mobile payments arena. Noting the pace at which companies are launching mobile-payment-related platforms, she asks “how many more ways do we need to pay for a physical or digital product via a mobile device?”

Rao lays out the ecosystem landscape, including the major players like Google, Isis and PayPal, but notes that companies like Groupon, LevelUp and Shopkick are dabbling in mobile payments in various ways, and even major retailers have jumped in. The field is going to need to thin out, she argues, before mobile payments can achieve any kind of ubiquity:

“I think it’s safe to assume that there will be more than one clear-cut winner in the mobile payments/digital wallet race, but we will see consolidation. From the user point of view, a consumer is going to get frustrated very quickly if he or she has to use 10 different apps to pay for items.”

The deciding factor in which companies and platforms will come out on top goes beyond scale and the number of customers a platform can secure, Rao says. “I believe that the company or startup that commands the best value for both consumers and merchants will become the clear-cut leader,” she writes. Rao’s piece is well worth the read.

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Commerce Weekly is produced as part of a partnership between O’Reilly and PayPal.

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August 30 2012

Commerce Weekly: Google Wallet vs Apple Passbook

Here are a few stories from the commerce space that caught my attention this week.

Google prepares its Wallet to compete with iOS 6

Robin Dua, Google’s head of product management for Google Wallet, participated in a video interview (embedded below) this week to talk about Wallet features and plans. Technology reporter Cromwell Schubarth notes in a post at Silicon Valley Biz Blog that the future plans for Google Wallet look a lot like Apple’s newly announced Passbook that’s due to release in iOS 6 this fall. Schubarth quotes Dua:

“‘One of the types of things we’re trying to do is make it easy for airlines, transit providers, and other types of issuers of credentials to make it super simple for them to get their credentials stored in the wallet,’ Dua said. ‘That’s the goal. We want you to be able to leave your leather wallet at home and carry your phone and transact with that as your primary transaction device.”

Dua said they plan for the Wallet to hold credit cards, loyalty cards, IDs and things like boarding passes and transit passes. Very much like Apple’s description of Passbook.

You can view Dua’s interview in the following video:

As far as mobile payments are concerned, however, Google Wallet might retain its leg up on Apple. Earlier rumors of the next generation iPhone, anticipated to be announced at a rumored Apple event on September 12, indicated the phone would include an NFC chip, fueling further rumors that Apple would launch a digital wallet. This week, Brian Klug and Anand Lal Shimpi at AnandTech presented a compelling argument as to why it’s highly unlikely the phone will include NFC. Ryan Kim at GigaOm reports:

“AnandTech said given the reports that the next iPhone will have a metal backing, there will not be enough space in the non-metal window reserved for other antennas to support an NFC chip.”

Of course, an NFC chip isn’t necessarily required for Apple to launch a mobile payment product. Some analysts have argued that Bluetooth technology would make more sense.

X.commerce harnesses the technologies of eBay, PayPal and Magento to create the first end-to-end multi-channel commerce technology platform. Our vision is to enable merchants of every size, service providers and developers to thrive in a marketplace where in-store, online, mobile and social selling are all mission critical to business success. Learn more at x.com.

It’s not about the tap. It’s about the data behind that tap

Dan Rowinski at ReadWriteWeb took a look at the transformative effect technology is having on currency and the way people shop and pay for goods. He argues that major changes to our cash-based society will be “brought on by the two most fundamental innovations to hit the mainstream consumer since the advent of the Web: mobile and cloud computing.” He notes that, philosophically, the cash-to-digital road hasn’t been (and isn’t) easy:

“This notion of using a smartphone to pay has been criticized by many people (including us at ReadWriteWeb) as adding no value. There has been a lot of hype about NFC for the last couple years, but there is really no discernible argument that can validate that a tap is easier or more valuable than swiping a card. This is the crux of the argument against mobile payments: The transformation taking place is not necessary. For NFC in particular, it has been called a solution without a problem.”

Rowinski argues that the transformation to mobile payments does, in fact, add value — the value is in the layers beyond the transaction. “The value of the mobile wallet is the digital transformation of monetary and transaction data,” he writes. “When a consumer makes a purchase on a smartphone, the retailer knows who that person is, the mobile wallet provider gets information about what was bought when and where and by whom, and the consumer gets the value of electronic receipts and the ability to receive coupons, offers and loyalty rewards.” You can read more of Rowinski’s analysis here.

Wallet competition roundup

John Martellaro at The Mac Observer pulled together a roundup of the competition in the digital wallet wars this week, with breakdowns of all the major players: Google Wallet, Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), Isis, Square, PayPal and V.me. Martellaro addresses a few of the hurdles facing mobile payment as well, including technology and security issues, but also points out what might be the biggest — and perhaps most overlooked — issue: consumer frustration. Martellaro writes:

“… there is also the issue of competition that will confuse and annoy customers. For example, it doesn’t appear that Google Wallet will come to iOS. As a result, banks, telecom companies, and merchants are in a much better position to work out the requisite details. On the other hand, a system from smartphone makers, because of the competing interests, would generate discord. This could explain why Apple hasn’t jumped in with ‘Apple Wallet,’ (other than its iOS 6 Passbook).”

On the other side of The Pond, Mastercard heated up the mobile payment competition in Europe this week, striking a deal with Everything Everywhere, the biggest telecom operator in the UK. The initial offerings will be a bit different from other services that charge purchases to registered credit cards or bank accounts. The BBC reports that, “one of the first products would be a service in which users pre-pay money into an account before being able to spend it via handsets equipped with near-field communication (NFC) technology.” Future plans, according to the report, include adding the ability to pay through a bank account with a mobile phone and a service to facilitate person-to-person money transfers.

Tip us off

News tips and suggestions are always welcome, so please send them along.

Commerce Weekly is produced as part of a partnership between O’Reilly and PayPal.

Related:

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