I was a bit surprised to find out that Google are on the same side of the payments fence as PayPal. The two companies have a long history of sparring going all the way back to when Google Checkout was launched and they announced and then cancelled a “Let Freedom Ring” launch party across the road from eBay Live! eBay then cancelled all their Google adwords (nothing to do with Checkout apparently) and ejected two eBay Live! Gala attendees for wearing Google Checkout shirts.
So enough of the history, it’s taken a threat to both PayPal and Google Checkout (which has now migrated into the Google Wallet product) to bring the companies together. They’re both lobbying the European Commission in Brussels to block Vodafone, O2, T-Mobile and Orange from forming a joint venture to create a new mobile phone digital wallet.
Code named “Project Oscar” it’s possible that the payments chip could be built into mobile SIM cards ensuring the mobile operators have full control over the wallet and effectively cutting out the likes of PayPal and Google. Even if the payments chip was built into the phone rather than the SIM card, with a quarter of handsets in the UK being subsidised by mobile operators they could still ensure mobiles only ran their own digital wallet.
Google Wallet is of course already tied to a single mobile operator – Sprint and only available for a single handset in the States. They’ve never gotten around to bringing their Wallet product to mobiles in Europe. PayPal are experimenting with a raft of mobile payment options but also have yet to launch much in the UK barring the Pizza Express iPhone payment app.
In addition to PayPal and Google, all the banks as well as Visa and Mastercard want a slice of the mobile payments action. Naturally the mobile operators see mobile as their own territory and want to cut a slice of payments. Ultimately the winner will be the services that consumers decide that they want to use, but that depends upon choice being available.
Choice is the reason that PayPal and Google are objecting the Project Oscar. Ideally of course both companies want you to have choice, so long as that choice means paying in whatever way on whatever platform you like, so long as it’s theirs and not your mobile operators.