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NFC: It’s Time

The way you make purchases is changing. With Bank of America preparing to start charging $5 a month for customers to use their debit card, and the promise of more banks to follow suit, the opening for NFC is here. Near Field Communications will allow customers make purchases with their mobile devices. Many know of Google Wallet, but Isis — a joint venture between U.S. carriers Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile — will be Google’s main competition.

Isis, the brainchild of three of the big four mobile companies (we will get to Sprint later), is slated to be a firmly established brand. With handset makers such as Samsung, HTC, Motorola, RIM, LG, and Sony Ericsson, committed to building NFC-enabled devices with Isis’ technology, competition is guaranteed, but success is not. Isis has not been released on any device yet. Those outside of the tech space have never heard of Isis. Most have never heard of NFC.

Scot Mulloy, Chief Technology Officer of Isis, said that “working together with the device makers and our founding mobile carriers, Isis can provide the consumer choice and scale necessary for widespread adoption of mobile commerce.”

Google Wallet is currently available on only one phone, the Nexus S 4G from Sprint. But this means little to Google. Google Wallet works on over 300,000 MasterCard PayPass locations, not to mention a worldwide license with Visa’s PayWave service. With Android as its platform, Google could just make Wallet a standard application on new iterations of the operating system. Of course, the three carriers would fight — and likely try to block it — but it may be a case of too little, too late. Google is expected to announce Ice Cream Sandwich, the new Android variation in the next few weeks.

Back in May, when Google Wallet was announced, Google VP of Commerce Stephanie Tilenius said, “in terms of iPhone, RIM, Microsoft – we will partner with everyone.” This, of course, depends on how willing Apple and Microsoft are to adding another Google product to their operating systems. Apple has also been rumored for months to be working on its own NFC service. But if accomplished, Google will have a stranglehold on the mobile payment market. Apple – and to a lesser extent Microsoft — as you may know, do not let carriers alter their devices, unlike Android, which is routinely altered to a carrier’s preference.

While Isis has been rounding up carriers and manufacturers, Google has been rounding up retail businesses. Merchants such as, Foot Locker, CVS/pharmacy, American Eagle Outfitters, Jamba Juice, RadioShack, and Toys “R” Us currently accept Google Wallet. Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Subway, and Walgreens are coming in the near future.

Wide-spread adoption of NFC technology seemed a few years away, but with banks implementing a monthly fee for debit-card use, it could come much quicker than we expected. Isis has the carriers and the manufacturers, but that may not matter. Google is Google, and they will implement their service.

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