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Where In The World Is ISIS Wallet?

Written by Karen Webster
June 24th, 2013

Karen Webster is CEO of the Market Platform Dynamics consulting firm and serves as President of PYMNTS.com.

My, how time flies when you are having fun in the digital wallet space! With all of the recent attention to Google Wallet, thought it might be interesting to do the same about some of the other digital wallets in the market – there are so many now! Since someone was asking me just the other day about ISIS, and its been a while since we’ve heard from them, I was inspired. So, just Where in the Wallet World is ISIS these days? Well, the short answer is: not in very many places.

It’s live in two cities, so they can officially use plural words when describing its deployment, but unless you live in Salt Lake City or Austin (and own particular handsets with NFC) you are SOL in being able to engage in the ISIS experience. According to Mike Abbott, ISIS CEO, at a presentation this past May, ISIS will expand past those cities when they are good and ready. And after all, what’s the rush, especially when you have Big Daddy Telebucks (AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon) bankrolling you?

Let’s take a trip down memory lane now and refresh our collective memories on the ISIS Wallet evolution.

It seems like only yesterday – but it was actually November 2010 – when the news first broke that AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless had formed a JV to build a “transformative” mobile commerce network called ISIS. The emphasis here is the word network. The original ISIS ambition was to create a mobile network to compete with V and MA and AXP, touting its ability to bring 200 million subscribers to the mobile commerce party, which the three founding telcos paid $100 Million to throw. The model was to have a single issuer, BarclayCard US, power the solution, which would run over Discover’s rails. This was all going to happen by way of NFC.

Fast forward to May 2011. After the initial heavily-funded-start-up-with-lofty-ambitions euphoria wore off, the reality began to set in. New network that competes with incumbents: hard. Mobile: hard. NFC-based: harder. No available NFC handsets: much harder. No merchants with NFC-enabled POS: much, much harder. Consumer adoption: yikes! They’d have to ditch their existing cards, which they could use everywhere, switch their accounts and get a Barclays Card, buy a new phone … only to not be able to use it many (any?) places. Not a very enticing value proposition – and many, many really hard platform business problems to solve all at once!

So, ISIS pivots, moving away from its network ambition to a mobile wallet ambition, now partnering with V and MA. What happens then?


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