Conversations about the iPhone launch – every one of them – has included the NFC and/or payments question. When, we asked, will Apple include NFC? Surely now is the moment when they will awake and conquer the billing and payments world.
It is an interesting question. Ignoring NFC – as we will – they have a superb payments platform. It authenticates you immediately, it is simple, robust, quick, it doesn’t matter how quickly customers receive their statements, and it has 400 million customers. So, in a very real sense they already are in the payments business. And as small merchants would readily attest, they are ‘very seriously’ in the payments business, looking at their commission structure.
So perhaps they do not need to do anything else, like co-operate with the rest of us. Or they are fine with their large, comfortable margins. But comfortable margins can quickly become uncomfortable. We should not forget that back in 1993 Microsoft rather wanted Apple’s operating system and offered them the idea of the Apple logo appearing as every PC in the world came to life. Apple responded by saying no thank you, we are happy charging three and half thousand dollars for a small grey PC. Apple then went into a tail spin – not particularly as a result of that conversation (reported at the time by Wired magazine) but as a result of their attitude to the rest of us.
There is also, now, Android and they are much more enthusiastic about working with carriers. And carriers themselves are proving that a proper ‘one click’ operator billing solution is hugely successful. As we have discussed before, BlueVia, the Telefonica Digital initiative has seen revenues from purchases increase by 300 percent since launch. And the process is so simple it is driving more purchases as well. Firefox Marketplace is launching in Latin America with Direct Operator Billing ‘baked in.’ BlueVia is now available to over 400 million customers and merchants are very keen.
And yet Telefonica Digital, along with a horde of other carriers, remains camped out in Cupertino waiting for Apple to come out and play.
Whether Apple will ‘launch’ a payments capability is actually of marginal interest – they already have it built in. Whether they will co-operate or try and go it alone, will depend on whether the 1993 attitude is properly dead and buried.
If not, there may be trouble ahead.
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