Apple and NFC

Apple may be running much faster than anyone in the industry knows toward this vision. Perhaps they have already indigenously created this new combined secure element/UICC/BT Radio. I see no need for them to run with this early… But if they did create it in the iPhone 5 they will certainly have the control to govern how it is used.

Apple and NFC..

Nothing really new here for the NFC crowd. No new information..  Purpose is to paint a picture by which investors can make a call.

Most of the issues associated with NFC today are NOT technical.. but rather business: What value can it bring? Who controls it? Who makes the money? How is it shared? For payments… NFC has been a complete bust (with the exception of Asia). Retailers just aren’t excited about the prospect of paying credit card interchange (3.5%) for the privilege of accepting a mobile payment which funds a 12 party supply chain  (necessary to make NFC work).

The WSJ (July 6, 2012) and I both have consistent information that Apple will NOT be rolling out NFC in the iPhone 5. If true, I believe Apple’s exec team is taking a brilliant approach to be a late follower here. Let everyone else pay the freight to educate the customer, and establish a high level retailer POS value proposition (with associated retail infrastructure). Apple is much better positioned to extend the App Store experience into mCommerce.. and control the customer end-end experience. Apple will also likely expand “selectively” into physical commerce areas like ticketing.

To be clear, I’m not positioning that Apple has run away from NFC.. but there has been no success to date and there is no reason for Apple to run into this space. In order to monetize and sort of physical POS solution, Apple must have a business structure that can orchestrate a very complex “physical commerce” value proposition. Keep in mind Apple doesn’t have much of a sales force to cover advertisers AND retailers globally. Rather than “focus” on the POS, or implementing standard NFC chipsets, I see Apple doing something “unique”… What is it?

I was meeting with senior NFC execs this week, and the consensus view is that Apple will likely redefine phone hardware architecture.  Most of you have read about Apple’s recent patent application which would allow the SIM to be logically placed within the SE. Also there are rumors about expanding the capabilities of the Radio and Controller to also cover Bluetooth functionality. The “value” that an integrated hardware solution? Not that much different than what NFC alone is capable of.. but it would greatly reduce footprint, power, time, and perhaps even expand “throughput” (example Accelerating/bypassing BT pairing: NFC is  424kb/s while Bluetooth V2.1 is 2.1 Mbit/s).

Although far from being an expert in this area, my summary view is that Apple recognizes the need for a secure radio and data store in the device that it can control.  A metaphore for an ID.  How do they want to control this ID? Well they certainly need to secure the wallet access (AuthenTec $356M last week, plus rumored IRIS scanning).

This approach is opposed to that of the carriers all of which are working very hard to “standardize” on an NFC architecture (Single Wire Protocol – SWP) that they will control. Apple’s plans are firmly in the opposite direction, and a brilliant business move. Giving carriers the control over this utility would be akin to letting them run an app store that they control.

Apple may be running much faster than anyone in the industry knows toward this vision. Perhaps they have already indigenously created this new combined secure element/UICC/BT Radio. Although I see no need for them to run with this early… But if they did create this capability in the iPhone 5 they will certainly have the control to govern how it is used.

What does this means for investors? Perhaps you start by asking Vivotech’s .. as they just folded up shop after 12 years. A fantastic team with a rock solid product line.. their fault? Betting  NFC would take off sooner.  Given Apple’s unique ability to capture mobile ecosystem profits it is always tough to find areas to nibble.  On the software side, how can new companies help Apple orchestrate value propositions in the physical world? Retail? Ticketing? Healthcare?.. The times.. they are a changin…

Nexus S – Verizon’s Plan B

Don’t believe everything you read. The Samsung Nexus S is a 2 year old phone.. the Galaxy II is the latest and greatest from Samsung. Verizon’s decision to commit to selling the Nexus S is an indication of major strategic planning.

6 December 2011

Today’s WSJ article that Verizon plans to block Google’s wallet on its new Samsung Galaxy Nexus .  While the mainstream press sees this as a slam on Google… I see this as Verizon constructing a fallback strategy. Why on Earth would Verizon want to allow the Nexus S on its network at all? It is a 2 year old Google designed phone which embeds a “non-standard” NFC architecture (embedded SE) which is controlled by Google (and cannot be controlled in a UICC based architecture).

As I stated yesterday, the ISIS is experiencing delays in its “go to” architecture. The rumor is that the current ISIS timeline is pilot in December of 2012 and production in mid 2013. I see this move by Verizon as accomplishing 3 things..

1)      The Google Nexus S is the only production NFC phone in the market (actively using NFC.. 50M blackberry’s have it.. but element is cold and lonely). It could allow Verizon and the ISIS team to reconfigure their CSAM wallet platform to this “non standard” architecture to accelerate time to market for a test.  The desired ISIS architecture is SWP/UICC based…  Note that if this is indeed Verizon’s plan, they will need Google participation as Google owns the SE keys in the Nexus S AND they have not published the APIs for the NXP element access

2)      Gives Verizon a phone in the market to pilot with Google. In other words they can play in the Google camp without a formal commitment. Verizon can play ISIS and Google off of one another to see which horse will win. This is very smart.

3) Gives Verizon access to NFC/Android much beyond payment. As Google has clearly articulated in Android Beam, NFC will be the tool for machine-machine communication. How you share pictures, videos, music and apps with another phone. VZ’s current NFC plans revolve all around ISIS and payment (and very closed), Google sees NFC as another radio to do many, many different things. As this week’s Comscore report shows.. Android’s 46%+  market share is a key driver of VZ’s success. VZ needs this handset not just for wallet.. but for access to all the other cool new Google toys that will come out supporting NFC. The question the analysts should be asking VZ is how their SWP/UICC architecture plays in the Google model. How will VZ allow many apps to access the NFC radio AND the secure data? There is only one software company that can help here and that is Sequent.. The other option is a multi SE architecture (see my previous blog, note blog was wrong on Apple), which RIM will likely support. In either of these scenarios, complexity reigns.. the only real option is to let Google drive the definition and the apps. Perhaps this is why VZ has thrown in the towl to Google’s Nexus architecture (hardware).. but not yet on software (wallet)

Don’t believe everything you read.  Verizon’s decision to commit to selling the Galaxy Nexus  is an indication of major strategic planning.

Related article on the ISIS Platform: Ecosystem or Desert?

ISIS Delay..

ISIS is proving that the NFC supply chain is not workable… at least not without a very substantial customer value proposition. A December 2012 delay to a PILOT may well be the death knell for ISIS… how can carriers invest $200M in a team that won’t see production until mid-late 2013?

ISIS Delay

My last blog on this subject was only 2 months ago.. Headline was “ISIS has 12 months”.  Rumor this week is that ISIS has 12 months to go TO PILOT (Dec 2012). The driver seems to be the UICC chip that supports the SWP SE (Gemalto’s fault??).  Note that my previous nine party chart did not even consider the UICC.. so here is a revision.. (added UICC, MNO, and POS register)…

How would you like to run an industry consortium that had to coordinate a release and a new technology across 12 different companies!?? Oh.. a few other minor considerations as well:  no compelling customer value proposition and against Google? My favorite question to ask anyone from ISIS is what will the application do for me that my Citi sticker won’t do now?

  • Provision over the air? (Who cares)
  • Turn on/off the card/element? (Who cares I don’t pay for fraudulent charges)
  • Offers? (Who cares.. Citi can tie merchant offers directly to card use.. Clovr Media/Linkable)

There are MANY future functions like eReciepts and Item level coupons.. but these are VERY far off because they require retailer participation.

ISIS is proving that the NFC supply chain is not workable… at least not without a very substantial customer value proposition. A December 2012 delay to a PILOT may well be the death knell for ISIS… how can carriers invest $200M in a team that won’t see production until mid-late 2013?   There is no shortage of parties complaining about Google’s approach.. but by taking control of the spec, the architecture, the handset and “TSM” they have eliminated the complexity and have been able to get something to market… and are improving from there based upon REAL customer feedback. So while ISIS will struggle to get a pilot running by late next year, Google is signing up new retailers every week, improving its applications and gaining market experience.

As I outlined previously, carriers started from a basis of control with the NFC Forum’s technical specification. Obviously, the handset has proven to be a platform of digital/physical convergence.   We all see enormous opportunities to re-wire physical commerce with the handset at the core. But today the handset’s “commerce” success is driven by its open nature (apps and connectivity). It is a platform where anyone can build anything within a given set of loose rules (tighter in Apple’s case). In order to attract retailers, advertisers, issuers.. the MNOs had to continue this “open” approach.. but instead have taken one of control. This control approach may have been unintentional as not many organizations have successfully built business platforms (favorite book on topic is Platform Leadership). MNO’s control approach could have also been driven by the desire to securely maintain customer information. Whatever the reason, companies will likely develop approaches (See Square Card Case) that keep information out of the secure element and place it in the cloud. As I related in the Square article.. the success of NFC is far from given.. All that is really needed at the POS is a “key” that key could be a single number/identifier delivered by NFC, your voice or your IRIS.  Keeping all customer information on the phone is rather stupid. One MNO told me this week.. its on the phone in case it doesn’t have connectivity. Well guess what.. stores have the connectivity.. that’s how Visa’s system works.. Stores are not dependent upon the Phone’s connectivity.. but rather their own.

It’s never easy for a Fortune 100 organization to admit that they made the wrong bet.  Globally, there is also a very strong inter-carrier commitment to “carrier controlled NFC” work. All it will take is one major carrier to change course and join Google’s camp to bring down a global house of cards that is NFC.  My guess is that carrier controlled NFC find long term traction in public transit and ticketing perhaps even in government identification. .. but this is 3+ years out before any substantial (>20%) adoption.

Customers.. you want ISIS mobile payments functionality? Go get a sticker.

MNOs.. do you want ANY part of mCommerce? You better move quickly to partner with someone that can get all of this done. Their dance card may fill up quickly. If you don’t move beyond the “control” approach.. you will be relegated to dump pipes.. as thousands of businesses work to get around your controls..   Given the Carrier IQ blow up this week, you have no ground for claiming you would manage privacy better than Facebook or Google.

NFC – Who owns the Secure Element?

How can banks play in NFC? Who Owns the SE? Great paper from the Mobey Forum

19 Jan 2011

I was researching “ownership” scenarios for the secure element in handsets and ran across this excellent analysis… a must read for banks. 

White Paper Alternatives for Banks to offer Secure Mobile Payments

Kudos to the Mobey Forum! Well Done.