From Chip to NFC: A necessary evolution

Consider this: Over its Sept 19th launch weekend, Apple has effectively shipped over 10 million EMV cards. Maybe these weren’t actual cards – rather, containers that could end up being a host to over 80M issuer cards eligible for Apple Pay. So how many among those will knock on a retailer’s door at launch? Initial device sales are to a loyal fan base. Should be easy to guess. Should be easy to spot too, as the aggregate NFC payment volume in US has never been more than a whimper. Continue reading

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The Bullet that you dodged: Apple Pay and CNP

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There has been a lot of focus on the Card Present rate rebate Apple has been able to extract from the Issuers, and continue to extract from banks lining up behind networks who are signing them up for Apple Pay. Networks are finally finding use for the “Issuer Provisioning Service” they hastily put together during the lost decade (the “Isis years”). Term sheets are blunt and non-negotiable, they don’t provide a lot of clarity other than demanding absolute acquiescence. There are traditional bankers sitting in wood paneled rooms wondering – “How on earth did we get here?” “Well Ed, you finally lost control of the form factor and now all you have is borrowed time, to play in someone else’s playground!”.

But beyond the CP win, apparently Apple almost got their way with CNP transactions as well – in finally affording parity to Card Present and Card Not Present transactions through Apple Pay. And if issuers hadn’t finally rejected it – I believe there would have been ripple effects beyond Apple Pay and even mobile payments – with far reaching repercussions for traditional players. Banks and Networks don’t fully understand what it is that they just dodged. Continue reading

Apple Pay – It’s complicated…

Took a while to crystallize some thoughts on Apple Pay, and having a sore throat meant it’s time to write instead of answering another call on the topic. All in all – the launch may have been exciting or uninspiring based on who you ask. But the truth is far more complicated – once you start to understand what this entails – such as the dynamics of the Apple – Issuer relationship, economics and a deeper look in to what Apple has sought to expose and keep out. As far as who is most impacted by today – I think we can say goodbye to the TSM’s forever. Even if they hope to convince to put SIM based Secure Elements on to iPhone6 and subsequent iterations, in my opinion – Apple would prefer a competing container to store payment credentials like it would want a third tit. The second one impacted is MCX. Third would be Discover/Paypal. Infact – if you paid notice to the press releases floated in the week before the Apple Pay launch (MCX CurrentC, Paypal API) – it would have been evident that these two had no role to play alongside in the oncoming Apple Pay launch. You wouldn’t risk the wrath of Apple if you were. Continue reading

The diminishing aura and utility of Coin

Coin

Much has been written of late, about Coin and its peers. Coin, Loop and others are worthy emerging players who have focused on innovating on the edges of the current payments framework – and consider convenience a more lucrative goal vs disrupting it altogether. Despite bank’s aversion to having their brands wrapped by a 3rd party – Coin and its peers have much consumer support. I have little to say about the product as-is – I think it’s a sexy widget, but for me – I am too cheap to pay for a plastic replacement when I carry around one already. However I believe they are intentionally evasive when it comes to their respective roles in an EMV landscape. Much of that follows focuses on Coin, but really – applies to Loop and others as well. Continue reading

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Apple in Payments: Bluetooth Edition

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This is the Part II of my Apple in Payments take – and it’s early because of the leak last week around Apple’s MFi program. In the first half of my take, I had touched upon Apple’s program for 3rd party hardware attachment market as being significant and likely to be a key aspect of its payments approach. So below, I will cover more on the approach, how Bluetooth will be the standard of choice – not NFC, and how Apple plans to secure Bluetooth enough to be able to handle payments. Continue reading

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Apple in Payments – A Disruptor’s dilemma

signatureThis post is an attempt to look beyond what the presence or absence of any specific radio in iPhone6 may mean to Apple’s intent in Payments and instead – provide some color around three things that are part of this debate: a) Bring 800M credit cards on file in perspective b) Address the question of radios on the device – a topic that has a disproportionate share of the debate and finally c) Consideration of steps made by Apple to secure both iOS and its devices as waypoints in its payments journey. Oh wait, that last one is not part of the Apple payments debate today. I believe it should be. Read on to see why. Continue reading

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Tokens and Traditionalists

Stop-Hating_1066824Two recent comments led to this post. One is by David Marcus of Paypal who long held fast to his belief that NFC based payments had high barriers to entry – cost, complexity while offering very little upside. Paypal’s position on NFC (Not For Commerce) had always been a bit zealous – understandable as in a world of Secure Elements – Paypal (and many others) could not meaningfully participate. But Marcus’s recent post is an attempt to view NFC/HCE as one of the three trends that could transform the retail payment experience – is a pragmatic view to a complex and heterogeneous retail environment. Marcus speaks on how Paypal has come to adopt a cautiously optimistic view of NFC/HCE, now that there are no gatekeepers extracting a toll and because HCE (thanks to SimplyTapp) finally offers a level playing field in the Android ecosystem. Continue reading

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HCE: We are not in Kansas anymore

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Both Visa and MasterCard announced their support for HCE and their intent to release HCE specifications soon. I have been talking about HCE from late 2012 (partly due to my involvement with SimplyTapp) and you could read as to why HCE matter and what Android KitKat-HCE announcement meant for payments. But in light of the network certification announcements yesterday, this post is an attempt to provide some perspective on what the V/MA moves mean, how do their approaches differ in certifying payments using cloud hosted credentials, what should issuers expect from a device and terminal support perspective, why retailers should take note of the debate around HCE and ultimately – the role I expect Google to continue to play around HCE. All good stuff. Continue reading

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Host Card Emulation: NFC’s Tale of Redemption

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When I wrote about Host Card Emulation back in March, it provoked much debate around whether this capability will die on the cutting floor or be meaningfully integrated in to a future Android iteration. And now that it has, this post is an attempt to look forward, even though much of it is speculative. But I will provide some perspective from a number of conversations I had in the last week with Networks, Issuers, TSMs, Merchants, Platform Owners and EMV practitioners and provide some insight in to perceptions, impacts and the road ahead for NFC. And I will provide some context to why HCE matters to each of these players. Continue reading

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Square Cash is a Head Fake

What follows is a collection of my thoughts, tweets, emails on the launch of Square Cash. I welcome your thoughts below.

First up, it’s not just Square Cash. The whole P2P space is a head fake. But let’s focus on Square. Continue reading

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Isis : A JV at odds

isis-logo2edited-553x364Isis has had a slew of announcements – about an impending national rollout and further assertion by both Amex and Chase of their intent to continue their partnership. Surprisingly (or not) Capital One has stayed mum about its plans, and neither has Barclays or Discover shown any interest. And much ink has been spilled at how resolute (and isolationist) Isis has been – including here on this blog. So does the launch reflect a maturity in the JV to tackle a national rollout, or is it being forced to show its hands? Wait..I have more questions.. Continue reading

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MCX – MerChants reduX

mcx-logo-leadMCX – MerChants reduX: Recently, I spent an hour chatting with friends of mine who launched a small business about what worked and what didn’t. When the topic veered off to card acceptance costs, the reaction was visceral – one of absolute loathe and the struggle to understand the myriad ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ of what cards to accept, and how to accept them. In the end, they had swore off Amex cards because the acceptance cost was above their product margins. I told them about Square and how it could allow them to continue taking Amex and pay a lower rate. But that had me thinking about MCX and what it could mean for small businesses. The post that follows is a collection of thoughts around MCX, why it deserves respect, and yet how it is indeed mortal and bleeds like all others. Continue reading

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For Apple, Payments is just the middle chapter

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Despite sharing much perspective over the last few years on NFC, HCE, Tokenization and rest – I had not been an ardent fan when it came to Apple and NFC – going back to iPhone5. Simply put – it was not a scenario that made sense if you were Apple, when in my view – success depended on re-alignment of business models that have skewed towards networks and issuers over decades. Evaluating what I knew then to be true – I arrived at the belief that traditional NFC payments will find no backers in Cupertino. And thus – in the first part of my two part Apple piece – I referenced to Apple’s likely (pragmatic) approach to NFC: Continue reading

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MCX Part II – Waiting to Exhale

Solipsism of Payments

For an ecosystem that has been described as unfair and out of balance, creating a prevailing atmosphere of mistrust, the payments industry should really look to the MacWorld Expo of 1997 for lessons to its future.

“We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose.”

What Steve Jobs meant was that for Apple, this was not a zero-sum game. Apple dominated in the years since, by creating new markets, and devices that captured both minds and marketshare. Continue reading

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