Speaking today at a conference, Osama Bedier, VP of Wallet & Payments, Google, discussed Google Wallet's rollout and where it's heading. Unlike Apple's Passbook, Bedier belives that NFC is the future and a "destination solution" for mobile payments. He explained that Google has already jump-started NFC adoption and that while it's not ubiquitous now, it will be within three to five years.
He believes that it's a better technical solution than the QR codes that Apple uses on Passbook, calling them one of "many bridge technologies between now and what is a destination solution." He pointed out that "you still have to futz" with QR codes — a criticism that isn't entirely fair given some of the location and lock-screen automation built into Passbook. "I don't like to comment on competitors," Bedier said specifically of Passbook, and continued to say that "generally, competition is good."
"Our goal is to be ubiquitous."
In this context, it's interesting that Bedier was surprisingly optimistic about the future of NFC both in mobile payments and generally. In fact, he expects that as the price of the elements come down, "NFC chips will replace bar codes."
"We haven’t yet seen eye-to-eye on a mobile wallet solution."
As for Google Wallet's adoption, Bedier is pleased with the update since the August overhaul to allow any card to be added to it. He wouldn't comment on specific numbers of users, but did say that the userbase has been doubling every six weeks or so recently. Even so, the biggest problem with Google Wallet has been that the company hasn't been able to get it installed on every phone it ships. Verizon, in particular, has kept Google Wallet off of its phones. "In general, we will work with the carriers on multiple fronts. We haven’t yet seen eye-to-eye on a mobile wallet solution," Bedier said, "We would like to see a more open model."
That's not likely to happen anytime soon as multiple players jockey for control of the mobile payments space. Next week, ISIS will launch its own mobile payment solution, and so the competition that Bedier wants will also serve to keep mobile payments fragmented until a single winner — or more cooperation — emerges.