Isis, the mobile commerce entity created by JVL Ventures LLC, took another step toward launching its much anticipated mobile wallet when it identified the first of its local merchant partners in Austin, Texas, and Salt Lake City. JVL was formed by three of the largest U.S. wireless mobile networks: AT&T Mobility LLC, T-Mobile USA Inc. and Verizon Wireless.
Isis' local partners represent a range of business types, including those in the cafe and restaurant, home and commercial services, florist, bookstore, jewelery, spa, grocery store, liquor store, bakery, car wash, catering, automotive services, petroleum, country club, ballpark, movie theater, and transit sectors. The Isis mobile wallet requires near field communication (NFC)-enabled technology. Isis indicated "hundreds of merchant locations in both Austin and Salt Lake City," are equipped to accept Isis NFC transactions. Those merchants will also be able to use the Isis wallet to extend offers and promote loyalty programs, the company said.
Isis has also secured partnerships with a number of national retailers, including Aéropostale Inc., The Coca-Cola Co., Foot Locker Inc., Jamba Juice and Macy's Inc. Jim Stapleton, Chief Sales Officer for Isis, said the partnerships signal that the "mobile commerce experience" has arrived.
The new mobile payment platform has also attracted major payments industry partners including card companies American Express Co., Discover Financial Services, Visa Inc., and MasterCard Worldwide; terminal manufacturers VeriFone Inc. and Ingenico S.A.; payment software providers ViVOtech Inc. and Equinox Payments LLC; national banks JPMorgan Chase & Co., Capital One Corp. and Barclays Group; security provider Gemalto NV; and phone manufacturers HTC Corp., LG Electronics Inc., Motorola Mobility Inc., Reseach in Motion Ltd., Samsung Mobile and Sony Mobile Communications AB.
Aite Group LLC analyst Rick Oglesby said Isis is "systematically building out merchant acceptance in an approach that is both geographically focused and centered around everyday spending."
Isis stated that this summer, "consumers in Austin and Salt Lake City will be able to walk into their AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile or Verizon Wireless stores, choose from a selection of NFC-enabled devices and walk out of the store with the Isis Mobile Wallet enabled and ready to use."
Some believe this is not a convenience for consumers as much as it is a challenge for Isis. "The problem is confluence," said payments industry consultant Paul Martaus, owner of Martaus & Associates. "The cell phone providers have to get consumers to use cell phones as a methodology to purchase stuff."
Martaus said having the right phone in the right place with an NFC-enabled POS requires an effort from consumers and merchants, an effort they may not be inclined to make. He called the Isis launch "a yawner" because it has a low impact on the overall payments market.
"This is a recipe for disaster," he said. "For this to be accepted, it has to have enough critical mass to impact the market." He does not believe the markets are "supersaturated" with POS devices that accept NFC transactions. "That's problematic," he said. "How many people do you know who own a Samsung phone?"
The participation of Isis' partners will help make the mobile wallet viable in Martaus' view, but he believes another company, yet to be heard from in the mobile wallet space, may ultimately decide the future of mobile payments: Apple Inc.
"Apple, as they have done with all of their architecture, has the potential to make payments fun," he said. "Think of the impact of that standard in terms of consumer adoption. And Apple has 200 million customers in its database already."
He called PayPal Inc.'s payment software incorporation into The Home Depot USA Inc. nationwide and Macy's commitment to Google Wallet "significantly more important" than the Isis launch.
Mobile payment consultant Richard Crone, Chief Executive Officer of Crone Consulting LLC, believes Isis has an advantage over its competitors. "Isis already has its customers' mobile credentials and payment credentials," he said, adding that those elements are the key to secure user identification in mobile payments.
However, like Martaus, Crone believes Isis cannot succeed without demonstrating it can reach critical mass. Then Crone brought up a good question: Why would consumers choose a wallet solution that emulates a card when they have smart phones that can store wallet information in the cloud where payments can be made in almost any form imaginable?
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