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LevelUp And Google Have An Actual Wallet War On Twitter

After our story on LevelUp’s lofty plans, Google mobile commerce exec Mike Dudas cast doubt. LevelUp’s Chief Ninja Seth Preibatsch quipped back. Someone pulled a shiv. (Ok, maybe not. But the payments race is clearly intense.)

LevelUp And Google Have An Actual Wallet War On Twitter

Oh, it’s on … Twitter. Earlier today, we wrote about LevelUp’s new NFC-supported hardware and CEO Seth Priebatsch’s search for a business model that can simultaneously benefit merchants, consumers, and the company itself. A few hours later, Google exec Mike Dudas, who works on mobile commerce products that include Google Wallet and Google Offers, took to Twitter to offer a skeptic’s take on LevelUp’s adoption potential, particularly by big businesses.

Dudas references Priebatsch’s recent business discussions with a major fast-food chain that spends $650 million a year on ads. He argued that LevelUp’s hardware solution for accepting mobile payments from customers was squarely meant for small- and medium-sized businesses. It’s certainly not an unreasonable claim–it’s difficult to imagine walking into a fast food chain and waving your smartphone at a flimsy countertop gadget to pay for your greasy goodies. But Priebatsch wasn’t convinced Google Wallet was the beloved alternative.

Google claims that tens of millions of people have Google Wallet accounts, but that sheds little light on how many people are actually using their Android phones to make real-world purchases.

What began as a cheeky joke about user numbers gave way to the legitimate question of how well Google Wallet will be adopted by users in the future. If you consider Google Wallet as the standalone, NFC-based Android app Dudas is referring to, it’s simply another payments solution that happens to use NFC technology. In other words, it’s nothing radical. But a week ago, Google Wallet’s product head Robin Dua implied that Google Wallet isn’t just an easy way to pay, but rather a way to condense and organize all the paper and plastic bits-and-pieces of your identity, from cash and credit cards to ID documents and boarding passes. The more options Google Wallet can pack into in one easy-to-use app, the more compelling it is as a service, and the greater its opportunity to profit off those features. (Whether that’s through targeted ads, transaction fees, or another monetization method).

All of this just points back to the fact that it’s still far too early in the payments race to determine which business models are poised for success, which companies are most likely to gain widespread adoption, and whether or not payments companies will have to split up their services into suites for both local and enterprise businesses.

Image: Flickr user nosha.

About the author

Christina is an associate editor at Fast Company, where she writes about technology, social media, and business.



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