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

June 1st, 2011

The second reason to do so is what we’ll call the Gambler’s Choice. The most likely scenario is that there will be trials with Google and Apple running simultaneously. Within about 18 months, the market—consisting of that tiny subset of consumers and retailers actively involved in trials—will decide a preference. Unless the underdog fights back with a clever new twist, the market will rapidly gravitate to the victor. The loser will then agree to a deal with the victor, with very unfavorable terms, and one mobile standard will emerge.

Here’s the gamble: The retailers that happened to have chosen to trial with the victor will have a huge headstart on development. The losers? Not so much; but they’ll still be far ahead of the retailers that engaged in no trials. That makes choosing properly very important. Given that Google has announced and Apple hasn’t, retailers have no way of knowing exactly what Apple will offer. Therefore, retailers trying to make an informed choice between the two—between something that exists and something that doesn’t—have an almost impossible task. Let’s look at the partner list, though, for some clues.

Google’s primary payment partners are Citi, MasterCard, First Data and Sprint. The most conspicuous missing player is Visa, so there’s a fine chance it will be in the Apple camp. That’s huge. AT&T and Verizon are up for grabs, and Apple already has strong relationships with them. Being first gives Google some strength, but the potential Apple lineup is powerful.

When asked if Google Wallet would exist on other platforms, Stephanie Tilenius, Google’s VP for Commerce, said at a panel discussion this week that “this is an app that works on any phone, and there’s an NFC sticker that can be put on the back of the phone.” Although true, that’s rather misleading. The app might work on the iPhone, but it can’t get on the iPhone without Apple’s permission.

That’s akin to selling a bowling ball to a child. The child balks and says, “Why would I pay you for a bowling ball? There are no bowling alleys anywhere near here. I couldn’t use it.” The salesperson replies, “This bowling ball will work in the living room of every house on your street, including yours.” He just doesn’t mention the permission issue.

And then there’s PayPal. PayPal and parent eBay sued Google last week and specifically sued Tilenius and Bedier, both of whom used to work at eBay. The accusations are the usual, that the executives breached confidentiality agreements. But the lawsuit also makes it clear that PayPal, which said it had been negotiating a deal to handle payments for Google’s Androids until Google backed out of the talks, sees itself competing for payment attention with Google.

“Both PayPal and Google are currently offering their mobile-payment and POS technologies to major retailers for trial use,” the lawsuit filing said. “Although PayPal’s services and Google’s services are not mutually exclusive, at this stage it is unlikely that a retailer would invest time and effort in testing both companies’ products.”

Is it at all possible for the mobile-payment space to get any less tidy? I didn’t think so.


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Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

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