Friday, September 23, 2011

Google Wallet Rival Isis pledges support for Android Platform

Isis, the nationwide Near Field Communications-based m-commerce network spearheaded by Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), AT&T (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile USA, confirms it will support Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android mobile operating system when services go live in 2012, going head-to-head with the new Android-based Google Wallet solution that officially launched earlier this week.
With Google Wallet presently limited to the Android platform and just one device--Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) Nexus S 4G--Isis touts consumer choice as its competitive edge against the service, which began its nationwide rollout Monday in New York City and San Francisco at merchant locations where partner MasterCard's PayPass system is accepted.
"[Google Wallet] is really, really limited in scope: single handset, single carrier, single bank. It's not enough to impact the behaviors of tens of millions of consumers, which is what the industry needs to go forward," Isis marketing head Jaymee Johnson told PCMag. "It's safe to say that when Isis launches we'll have multiple payment networks, multiple issuers, multiple handsets, multiple operating systems, multiple manufacturers." Asked whether those operating systems include Android, Johnson said "Yes. And Android."
Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile USA first announced Isis in late 2010, promising services enabling consumers to conduct point-of-sale transactions, redeem coupons and use store merchant loyalty cards via mobile device. In May, Isis said it would open its system to all interested credit issuers and banks, and in July welcomed financial services providers Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express to its ranks. According to Isis, the moves significantly expand the payment options available to mobile subscribers, at the same time extending the fledgling network's reach to encompass payment terminals already installed at U.S. merchant locations.
Some critics have questioned the pacing of the Isis rollout: Consumer trials are not slated to begin until early-to-mid-2012, while Google Wallet came to market about four months after Google formally announced the initiative. Late last month, Bloomberg reported Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile USA plan to invest roughly $100 million to accelerate the Isis buildout, mulling several options including pre-installing Isis software onto their phones and pushing manufacturer partners to adopt the solution. Sources add Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile will determine the funding amount depending on how successful Isis is in its efforts to attract banks and merchants. The carriers declined to comment; Isis confirmed it remains on pace to go live in "key markets including Salt Lake City and Austin, [Tex.]" during the first half of next year, but declined to comment on financing.
Google Wallet was first confirmed in late May when Google announced it would partner with Sprint and financial services providers MasterCard, Citi and First Data to enable subscribers to purchase goods and redeem coupons and loyalty rewards via Android smartphones. Comprising two complementary applications--Google Wallet and Google Offers--the m-commerce solution promises an open ecosystem, with Google planning to develop APIs supporting integration with multiple partners. Google first introduced support for proximity-based NFC capabilities with Android 2.3.3, released in February 2011. That same month, then-Google CEO Eric Schmidt called mobile payment services and NFC transaction technologies a "mega-scale opportunity."
Near Field Communications-based mobile transactions are expected to reach nearly $50 billion worldwide by 2014 according to a forecast issued earlier this year by Juniper Research. Based on internal analysis, as well as interviews with industry players, Juniper anticipates NFC-based mobile payment services will launch in up to 20 international markets over the next 18 months, with North America and Western Europe together accounting for 50 percent of the worldwide market by 2014.


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