Google+Softcard Levels Field Against Apple

24 Feb 2014

Well done Google. As predicted last month, Google announced last night that it had acquired “some exciting technology and IP from Softcard”. The price? My guess is around $50-60M, plus multi year revenue share (below). This is a FAR cry from the $3-$4 BILLION that these same Mobile Operators wanted for “NFC RIGHTS” in 2011. Google proposed a rev share back then too.. but MNOs were convinced they could go it alone. After dropping almost a billion in ISIS/Softcard with no future revenue of any kind in sight the drivers of the deal were obvious. Not only did carriers need an exit for their investment, they needed a partnership that gives them a role in the future of mCommerce.

What technology will stay? The SE Keys and the vending machine acceptance terminals.. seriously.. 98% of what ISIS/Softcard was is completely dead. My biggest unknown? I would love to see if Amex Serve could pick up the pre-paid card from Mastercard.. as the banks wanted to beat up my good friend Ed McLaughlin for doing what I still think was one of the best most innovative deals ever (Google pre-paid).SONY DSC

What did Google get? MANDATORY GOOGLE WALLET. That’s right, now EVERY ANDROID phone sold by the carriers will have wallet installed. This addresses a key advantage that Apple has in mandating an iTunes account (with credit card) for activating the iPhone. Apple’s brilliant registration process allowed it to know its customers (ID, card on file) where Android/Google did not. Many analysts believe that this ID/Payment deficiency is THE KEY reason why Apple’s environment is 8x-10x more profitable with less than 20% of the handsets. Now Google can compete in all things which require identity+payment. Not JUST in buying apps/music in Google Play, but in orchestrating commerce and brokering identity. I cannot understate the win here for Google. A brilliant move, and I firmly believe that this was the primary driver of the deal. Don’t look at this as a ApplePay competitive thing, it is about enabling Google to identify every Android holder as a default “opt in” during phone activation (iTunes Account Mandatory = Wallet Account Mandatory).

The Carriers? A partner that will share revenue. Where Apple takes 15bps for itself, my guess is that Google will give that to the MNOs, plus some revenue share for play services. My TOP 2015 prediction was that this would be the year of partnerships.. This is certainly my top new one for the year. MNOs are losing sleep about Apple’s unmatched “walled garden”, no one plays but Apple here. Google is developing an open model and this deal may be the first template for MNO/Platform revenue sharing.

Banks? Google will likely slowly “roll out” of its Google Wallet Card (also see TXVIA blog) which wrapped all other cards in a Mastercard Debit. Banks will be able to sign up for Google Wallet through network agreements just as they do for ApplePay today (at same rates/rules). This will mean that the networks will provision bank cards as tokens, and that Google will also benefit from forthcoming CNP token rules this summer. The primary difference in GW operation is HCE+Tokens (see blog). The Google Wallet model is not dependent on the SE Keys, or SD storage.. but it CAN operate in a non HCE model (from its GW 1.0 lineage).

Payment Networks. BIG WIN. Cards are the defacto standard for everything in mobile. I’m interested to see if the networks recognize (certify) the HCE card emulation application, as of 3 months ago it was still not certified. My belief is that they certify as part of tokenization scheme acceptance. This is a funny side story in itself. Most would ask how Google Wallet could run a non-certified card emulation app. Remember that the ONLY card being emulated was a Google owned mastercard debit.. just a brilliant work around. Note that in ApplePlay, Apple operates as a tier 1 token requestor in the current ApplePay model, and V/MA/Amex are tier 2 token requestors (see this excellent blog by SimplyTapp). In the Google model Visa and Mastercard will act as both Tier 1 and Tier 2 token requestors.

Big Losers? Samsung. OUCH!! No wonder they had to buy loop. Their new wallet strategy was to have a DUAL NFC/LOOP wallet. Google just got all the SE keys for the Samsung Phones. This means that Samsung’s wallet will only work on new phones.. a rather rough place to start.  Paypal.. with the birth of a new CNP scheme this summer driving ApplePay and Google Wallet beyond Apps to mCom checkout.. Paypal has no future in Mobile…  Except in emerging markets.

More to come.. but wanted to get this out today.

Softcard to Google?

17 Janisischoice

As I tweeted Monday, it is now in mainstream press (See today’s WSJ). This has been a very poorly kept secret, as the team at ISIS talks up its suitors.. I found out from a retailer. (BTW I did not return the calls of the WSJ for this article)

My very first blog in 2009 was on ISIS (project mercury back then).Did you know Softcard started as a joint venture between GE, Walmart and ATT!?  Selecting Discover and Barclays as the primary network/issuer to deliver value to retailers (Dekkers was lead at Barclays now CEO of MCX, Abbott was lead at GE now CEO of Softcard). There wasn’t much of a business case for the MNOs (50bps Discover card) so they brought in the mainstream networks, and realized that there still wasn’t a value proposition.. and started charging BANKS $1M a pop for the RIGHT to have their cards in the wallet (leaving 3 willing issuers today). Walmart left after the MNOs moved away from DFS/Barclays (and began planning MCX).

Hard to believe change can happen so quickly.  Just 4 years ago, the carriers wanted $3-4 Billion for the “rights” to NFC, now ISIS is going for around $60M. A price that more closely aligns the real value of NFC in an Apple, Token and Android HCE world.

SOOO many lessons learned, so many funny stories.  How could any company drive enough revenue to support a 12 party supply chain in payments (see blog)? See my “value prop” slide from 2009. Do you see anything that didn’t quite pan out? The WHOLE thing!!Mercury Value Proposition

I’m working on my 2015 predictions, one will be that we have come to a tipping point of … wait for it… COLLABORATION. Yes big companies WORKING with one another. Too much capital has been burned trying to go it alone. No one company can compete against Apple, Google, Amazon… Of course I’m betting on this with CommerceSignals

Look at the Google deal for Softcard (if rumors are true) as Google working to create a starting point for collaboration in payments. I don’t know if softcard is that right vehicle for that.. If Google is buyer, they will throw all of the technology away in days after acquisition.. I have some other very firm views here on why this all makes sense.. but don’t want to share now until deal is finalized.

Here are a few of my old blogs..

ISIS Platform: Ecosystem or Desert

Battle of the Cloud – Part 2

ISIS National Launch

NFC – ISIS has 12 months… (Oct 2011.. I was wrong by 24 months)

ISIS: Antonym of Nimble?

Software Secure Element – HCE Breaks the MNO NFC Lock

NFC and Consumer Choice