Mobile: Alliance Wants to Make Mobile Payments the New Norm, But Where Is Square?
The mobile payments industry may have entered adolescence this week. Square’s deal with Starbucks shows “m-payments” are no longer just the cute little kids on the block who everyone pats on the head and tells “good job” while the adults do the real work.
In another sign of apparent maturity, most of the major players in mobile payments (with one big exception, its poster-child, Square — more on that in a moment) are forming an alliance to solve the problems that arise when trying to transition from novelty to norm. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon have joined with the major credit card companies, Google, PayPal, Intuit and others to form the Electronic Transactions Association’s Mobile Payments Committee. By joining together, the alliance members are signalling their intent to make mobile payments another standard option at the checkout counter alongside cash and credit.
If they succeed in making the mobile payment option pervasive, government scrutiny will follow. The alliance allows all these companies to reach agreement on how they want the m-payment landscape to look before regulators decide for them. The ETA’s press release quotes Jackie Moran, executive director of federal relations for Verizon, who says the committee “is designed to ensure that the early stages of mobile payments are handled in the best possible way: With insight and ingenuity from all the players—private as well as public sector.”
But not Square, which is not entirely surprising. True to its startup DNA, Square has always presented itself as the roguish, innovator seeking to rattle the stodgy old men of the credit card industry. This image is a bit of a trick in itself, seeing as Visa is a backer of Square. But Square CEO and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey hasn’t succeeded by making decisions by committee. By striking a huge deal with one of the world’s most visible retailers, Square seems to be defining its own standards for how the future of mobile payments will look. Instead of sitting at their knees, Square might be telling the grown-ups they just need to catch up.
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