Why the mobile payments frenzy doesn't matter

When all is said and done, it's about which banks process payments -- not users, developers, or IT

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Those outlets process a lot of transactions, and when the day arrives that all debit and credit cards come with a built-in NFC chip, we'll see those outlets quickly wave-enable their terminals. Then -- and only then -- will NFC start to become common on cellphones and smartphones.

When they do, some of us will happily link our Android, BlackBerry, or iPhone to our banking to use it as a debit card or perhaps to one of our credit cards. We won't give it another thought -- it will have no impact on anything else. We'll marvel about it for maybe a year, then take it for granted.

The real action will be who gets to profit from the processing fees. I bet it will be the same organizations that do so now. Even if you use iTunes Store or PayPal as an intermediary billing service, eventually the payment goes through a credit or debit processor, which will split the fees with Apple or eBay (or whomever). So what? We'll all care about that as much as we care about who makes the screens for our mobile devices. It's only of interest to the handful of payments processors involved.

I am certain it won't be your cellular carrier that handles the money: They're way too cautious and internally dysfunctional to do anything other than, for the most part, provide decent networks. After all, they've been wringing their hands for more than a decade about their desire to be more than "dumb pipes" that only carry calls and data, which get cheaper and thus less profitable over time. (Remember when you used to hesitate to make a long-distance call due to the cost? That's why today you now pay a flat fee for voice, often no matter what your actual usage.) But other than try to erect walled gardens, hog-tie customers with contracts, and get short-term device exclusives -- all reactive sales approaches, not innovations -- the carriers have done nothing innovative despite their angst. They're still dumb pipes, and they'll stay that way.

But that's all industry inside baseball. Who processes the payments or whether you can use a smartphone as a credit or debit card will have zero impact on application developers (other than who they sign up with), users (other than who send them the bill), or IT. If mobile payments happen, they'll be as important to mobile users, developers, and managers as credit cards are today -- something they all use but is irrelevant to their technology concerns and opportunities.

This article, "Why the mobile payments frenzy doesn't matter," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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