I had an interesting dialogue over lunch yesterday.
One of my colleagues had just got his iZettle dongle.
iZettle is a Square for Europe, offering Chip & Signature payments on smartphones (Square reads the mag stripe).
It was originally going to be Chip & PIN, but the PIN terminal detail is too costly to rollout today.
If you’re interested in how it works, watch the video:
So as we’re talking, I’m struck by how many different ways there are to pay-by-mobile today.
There’s SMS text payments; contactless payments; proximity payments; P2P payments via apps; in-app payment services; QR code payments; dongle payments … too many payment services.
The fact is that I get pinged every day with a new way to pay by mobile, and sometimes more than once a day.
A few stand out – M-PESA, Pingit, Square – and these are the ones I blog about every day … and then there’s a shiftload of others.
As we talked, it made me remember the last wave of payments innovations disrupted by technology way back in 1998-99.
Back then, the internet world was rocking downstream with a shiftload of companies getting into the viral payments space: eBay had Billpoint, Citibank had c2it, Yahoo! used PayDirect, Western Union offered BidPay, and there were loads more out there. There were even interesting but short-lived ideas of new virtual currencies, like Beanz and Flooz, but none of these were around for long.
Now, looking back over the last ten to fifteen years, we see one major firm ruled all: PayPal.
What this means is that each time we have a major disruption in technology, there will be a sudden splurge of new businesses spawned to leverage the opportunities the new tech offers.
Over time, these firms will compete, merge, acquire, win and die, until eventually one firms will rule them all.
In the internet era, that firm was PayPal.
In the mobile internet era, which firm will win out is still to be determined but it will not be the many of today, but the one or two of tomorrow.