Square just received a $100 million cash injection and is now valued at a cool $1 billion. But they are far from alone in hatching mobile payment plans. Let's take a look at a few others who might give Jack Dorsey's gang a run for the industry's considerable money.
PayPal is, to a huge extent, responsible for changing how we think about paying for goods because of its pivotal role in early Net shopping. And now the company has confirmed it's just passed 100 million registered accounts. Revealing the news, PayPal's president Scott Thompson was also bullish about new technology that'll make credit cards as we know 'em obsolete: He predicts that by 2015 wireless payments will have made the plastic card and, possibly, your entire wallet obsolete.
Is this plausible? PayPal does have 100 million reasons to think so—because its digital archive of all those customer's payment details is actually a model for the future of payments. A plastic credit card itself is merely a way to store digital info on where a store can access your digital cash pile, and it's not fabulously secure any more. PayPal has plans, like many other companies, to enter the more secure and in many ways more convenient mobile wireless payments future. And it's certain that the card itself is a dead end.
Thompson is "so confident" about this that PayPal has asked "five Bay area employees to embrace a digital lifestyle and use only digital currency to pay for all of their purchases." On July 11 PayPal will reveal who the "five lucky winners are" and this will likely kick off a huge PR campaign.
Meanwhile VeriFone, the folks behind many of the handheld credit card machines you'll have encountered in stores and restaurants, has introduced a new PayWare Mobile Enterprise for Tablets system which lets tablets like iPads and some Android devices act as point-of-sale card processing units. It's a reaction, in part, to Square. But unlike Square's focus on current U.S. card tech and its boutique inventory system, VeriFone's connects up to some older enterprise inventory tech which could make it easy to integrate for stores with older cash register systems, and it supports PIN-based credit cards and NFC devices—making it accessible for the more advanced chip cards used in Europe and for the expected wave of NFC-enabled smartphones.
VeriFone's plans are apparently in early gestation, and won't be fully rolled out until early 2012, but the firm is extremely well connected inside the existing digital payments structure, and its wave-and-pay and mobile-pay solutions could thus very quickly gain traction.
What does this mean for Square? Hard to say. So far the company has been centered on an extremely simple business plan and pretty low-tech card reading solutions. And while it's growing rapidly, its business seems constrained to the U.S., which is hardly the world leader in advanced payment technology. But it is growing fast—and its new $100 million cash injection could let it leverage its novel inventory software with newer payment processing solutions. As existing big players in the industry get their plans in motion, however, Square's scope for disruption could get more limited.
And then there's Apple. We'll have to see if Apple plans to do clever NFC tricks with its database of 200 million credit cards—the biggest on the web.
[Image: Flickr user stevendepolo]