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Google Wallet Struggles With Being Open, But On Only One Platform: Its Own

June 1st, 2011

Mulpuru said going partway open is generally going to frustrate both customers and partners. “It sounds like they see ‘open’ in the same way that APIs are open: in a select way. Anyone can develop something for it, so long as it’s within the parameters of what has been outlined. It’s all about not having skin in the game and trying to avoid investing in development support—usually the result is little upside or uptake for anyone.”

The Forrester argument is quite legitimate, which is a shame, because what Google unveiled seemed to have most of the elements of a first-class payment system. Despite some payment security hiccups during the demonstration, the Google presentation included what appeared to be a very well-thought-out, seamless user interface. The security is primarily dealt with on the chip, but Google also included the ability to shut off the app. It’s possible to activate and deactivate any of the individual cards in the virtual wallet, too. That’s a nice touch for addressing the security concerns of cyberthieves who are trying to catch card data in the air. The card is only activated right before the purchase and can be deactivated seconds after the purchase is completed.

But let’s get back to Forrester’s point about NFC challenges in Japan, which is arguably the most mobile-phone-friendly country on the planet. To paraphrase that old standard, New York, New York, if NFC can’t make it there, can it make it anywhere?

With today’s retailers, there is a huge investment in NFC integration that has to happen before we even know whether NFC support will translate into NFC transactions. Even if the vast majority of those investments are heavily subsidized by Visa and others in the chain—including Google and Apple—it’s not just the investment dollars that are an issue. It’s also an issue of time.

The move to retail NFC “is not a 12 to 18 month investment,” said Peter Osberg, senior VP for Marketing at Denver-based retail payments vendor IPCommerce, who added that it could take significantly longer.

Anything that will take more than two years in mobile might as well take 20 years, given how quickly M-Commerce is changing. Then there’s the issue of getting NFC phones into the hands of enough consumers, many of whom will have to upgrade.


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Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

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