What a tangled web we weave
There were a couple of news items over the last few weeks that caught my eye. First, that AT&T is rumoured to block NFC capability on the Blackberry 9900 and secondly (and you couldn’t miss this one) that Google is buying out Motorola’s handset business (see Daniel Ashdown’s blog on this here). These events may seem at first unrelated, but it is a symptom of the highly-connected world in which we live, that there are “sea changes” at work out of which news items are just the “tip of the iceberg”, to continue the nautical paradigm. In this case, the sea change is something that Juniper Research is very aware of – mobile commerce and these two events (and many others) are connected through this market. AT&T blocking NFC is not just about technology – it is the convenience of NFC that will give the mobile payments market much needed traction. Currently AT&T are said to be disagreeing with RIM on where the “secure element” for those payments sits. AT&T wants it to be under their control in the SIM and RIM want it in their device. As for Google, for whom mobile commerce is a key strategic priority, Google is soon going to be in a position to put their secure element on their own Motorola phones rather than specially commissioned Nexus handsets. So we already have three types of players vying for control of the mobile commerce consumer – mobile operators, handset vendors, OTTs (don’t forget about Facebook commerce as well as Google) and we haven’t even crossed into the financial side – with banks, payments providers and all the intermediaries. As for alliances, there are mobile operators getting together, financial institutions getting together and various hybrids spanning the divide and we haven’t even looked at the retailer world yet. It’s getting complicated … But merging two or maybe three worlds to face a single consumer is never going to be easy, and if you are going have a lasting position in mobile commerce then you’ll have to keep your options open, as you may need one time adversaries to become your permanent friends later. So it’s interesting to note that AT&T is rumoured to be blocking NFC in the software of the Blackberry only - it could be enabled later.